Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Yesterday I tuned into the USA vs Belgium match a bit, then headed downtown. Near my meeting place there was a crowd watching the final minutes of the match and since I was early, I joined in for a bit. It was cool to watch the match like that, with the crowd oohing and aahing, following every moment. They were all rooting for the USA of course. I asked what the score was and was informed it was 2-1 to Belgium, in extra time.

It's interesting how popular the World Cup has become; my brother notes that it feels like Europe over here with the large crowds watching footie all around the country. I certainly noticed a lot of people watching the match, from the crowd outside, to the security guys inside, to the office workers. Later in the evening I went to a halal Chinese restaurant and the match was being replayed there. I remember a few World Cups ago it seemed like no one was paying attention and few cared that the USA was in it. Football, actual football, was just not big. Now its everywhere. While I still can’t bring myself for some reason to root for team USA, it's still pretty neat that football has gotten big here. And kudos for Team USA for getting through the group stage, whereas England fell apart, yet again, worse than before.

We know of course that football isn't called football here. As a 9 year old from the UK I was thoroughly confused by the term "soccer", not having any idea what it meant. It took a while for me to figure out that "soccer" meant football. These days, I notice a lot of ads here calling football "futbol", to differentiate it from American football, and also maybe to tap into the Latino audience. If here in America, we're going to call it either futbol or soccer, instead of just football, I prefer futbol over soccer.

Here are some thoughts from this article, from an England fan in NY on football's growing popularity:

"Meanwhile, the rest of the city was engaging with the World Cup like never before.

There is always interest, of course, thanks to the bubble of passionate (mainly Hispanic) soccer fans in and around New York. Flushing Meadows turns into Hackney Marshes every weekend.

Even our lovely, 50-something Guatemalan housekeeper does Panini swapsies with my five-year-old son. And the game of footie I organise every Friday night on the Lower East Side is made up of a brilliantly diverse group of British, Aussie, American, Dutch, Moroccan, German and Japanese players.

And yet, and yet... There's something happening outside that bubble, too. Last Sunday, Madison Square Park was heaving with flag-waving USA fans for the Portugal game.

Bars have been advertising the games "with sound", as if suddenly realising what they've been missing all these years. And people at work have started talking to me about football.

American people.

How infuriating that football - our football - has finally become a talking point at precisely the moment the USA has progressed further than England on the world's biggest stage.

All I can do is reluctantly accept my colleagues' condolences ("Sorry for your loss") and quickly change the subject by saying what a great World Cup it's been, and soccer's been the winner, and please leave me alone, and take off that ridiculous bandana will you?"