Posts Tagged ‘Soccer’

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Watch Premiere League Soccer

Written by Jarren Bird on . Posted in Sports

You like soccer right? Well what if, by some crazy means, soccer were actually called football? I know it seems odd to call a game where you ONLY use your feet “football” when there is a perfectly good game where you hardly ever use your feet called “football,” but such is the case in England. Our homeland. The place we come from. We call New York New York because in the UK there is an older place called York. We have New Hampshire because our former country has an older place called Hampshire. Those nutsos are crazy over there and they’re super crazy about football (soccer).

In England there is a league of football called the English Premier League, or EPL. There are 20 teams, most of which are in London (not really, but six teams are located in London which is a fair amount).

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Interview with Real Salt Lake’s Andy Williams

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Real Salt Lake begins meaningful play on February 22. The team is coming off its most successful season, in which they broke a number of MLS records, including least amount of goals allowed and longest streak of unbeaten matches at home.

Midfielder Andy Williams has been with the club since its founding and remains a fan favorite. He graciously agreed to participate in a recent email interview with Rhombus. You can read the full interview below:

soccer

SPORTS: How Soccer Haters Will Convert

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Just a couple days into the 2010 World Cup, soccer fans around the world are now enjoying for the biggest sporting event in the world. The United States is probably somewhere in the middle as far as popularity of the sport is concerned. “The beautiful game” is subject to much criticism here, typically for a few of the same claims.

One of the most-heard complaints is that soccer is low-scoring and that there is not enough action. There are, of course, arguments to refute that since you could say the same about baseball and hockey, except baseball is much longer and (in my opinion) much slower. An argument could be made that even American football is a slow-paced game considering all the breaks, play-calling, and television timeouts. So the notion about not liking soccer because it is low-scoring and slow is pretty weak.

Since the other arguments hardly have a foot to stand on, there is one remaining argument that explains some of the distaste for the sport: Americans want to be the best. It is part of the culture and it is embedded in our DNA. Looking at the history of the sport in this country, the U.S. has had a few bright moments but it has yet to prove it is one of the elite countries at soccer.

I have heard more than a few times from fans and haters alike that soccer here is just not as good as it is in Europe, and for that reason they cannot or do not support it. Their thought is that if you are not the best at something, then what is the point? And not being as good at something as Europe leaves an especially bad taste in some people’s mouths. Europe attracts some of the best players in the world with much higher salaries than the players are paid here because of how well established the game is there and how much the game is embedded in the culture. Soccer is life for a lot of them and, until the U.S. can compete salary-wise, Europe will continue to be a very attractive alternative.

Nonetheless, soccer is growing quickly in the United States. Take a look at the Seattle Sounders and their passionate fans, which were recently named the “2010 Best Sports Team of the Year” by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. They are selling an amazing amount of season tickets and games are bringing enormous crowds, over 36,000 for every home game. That is nearly double the attendance that Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers draw. (Of course, venue capacity should be taken into account.)

Locally, Real Salt Lake is averaging well over 15,000 per game, which is a huge amount for their market. They pull about the same amount as teams in larger markets like New York or Columbus. Overall MLS attendance is already up 11 percent on average from last year.

The league is also following the mold of the other international leagues by implementing developmental academies under each club, allowing for the identification and development of homegrown talent for the MLS. Take, for example, that of the four MLS players that made the US Men’s National Team, one of them is from Real Salt Lake in Robbie Findley. That is quite an accomplishment. Not only that, but 13 of the 23 players on the World Cup roster have previously played in the MLS.

Another measuring stick for the popularity of soccer is the broadcasting of games. Not only is there an MLS “match of the week” on ESPN2, but for the first time in the United States, all of the 2010 World Cup matches will be broadcast on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. You will also be able to watch most games live online at ESPN3.com. That type of exposure will definitely draw more attention to the games and soccer will progress.

The bottom line is that Americans do not like being second best at anything, and in order for soccer to gain real respect and attention both at home and around the world, the U.S. has to have a very successful run on the world’s biggest stage.

SPORTS: The Unity of the RSL Community

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Salt Lakes newest heroes.

Salt Lake's newest heroes.

Since its founding in 2005, Real Salt Lake has had a lot of ups and downs. The first couple years the team had virtually no confidence in themselves, even fully expecting to lose their games. Prior to all that, there was a lot of criticism in the community over how to fund the building of a new stadium for the team and whether or not soccer was worth the finances involved. Some argued that it would help the economy of the Salt Lake area, which may or may not be true. But the often overlooked benefit of having a professional soccer team in Sandy is the unique way it brings the community together.

I must confess, I was not a Real Salt Lake fan or even a soccer fan in general until roughly six months ago. My reasoning was pretty much the same as any other opponent of the sport: it is low-scoring and lacks action. All that changed the first time I went to an RSL game — and the more I experience it, the more I like it.

One of the first things that intrigued me was the supporter sections. I could see how passionate they were about their club. They chant, play their drums, throw confetti, wave their flags and heckle the other team from start to finish literally willing the club to victory. There are five supporter groups throughout the system that are largely self-organized: Section 26, the Loyalists, the FCB, the RCB, and La Barra Real. All of these groups are encouraged by the Real Salt Lake organization to continue their passionate support through discounted season tickets. These groups alone have raised the bar for enthusiasm and continue to grow. While all of these groups are impressive, the group that stands out most is La Barra Real.

La Barra Real consists largely of first and second generation Americans. They are mostly Latinos from countries such as Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador and Colombia. There are also people from Spain, as well as a decent number of Anglos. Their group is made up of people ranging from three to sixty years of age. People of various backgrounds come together to energize the team and the crowd alike. Every so often, the better part of those in attendance join in on the grassroots chants. The leader of La Barra, Luis Castro, explains, “The only thing we ask is that you enjoy the game, and sing, and jump with us. You don’t have to speak Spanish. Just have fun. We welcome anyone.”

I can personally attest to that statement. During halftime of the last game I attended, I heard the chants make their way closer and closer until they were behind my section. I went up to see what was going on and found La Barra and others banging their drums, jumping around and chanting to pump up the loyal fans and newcomers. There was a crowd forming around them clapping and chanting as well. You could tell that people were hesitant to get into the mosh pit, myself included. After a minute of observing, one of the La Barra members apparently could see my desire to be a part of it all. He approached me and invited me in. Before I knew it, I was jumping around and chanting right along with them. The group came together in the center and starting circling in one big embrace. I did my part and tried to make a couple of 12-year-olds, who were just joining the fun, feel welcome.

Not everybody feels so comfortable joining in on the chants though, so the supporter groups sometimes have to get creative. One group changed the words of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to “If You Want Real to Score, Clap Your Hands,” getting even soccer moms to join in on the clapping part. Real Salt Lake brings together the community in a way that other sports do not.

That’s not the only thing to like about Real Salt Lake. Their coach has been quoted as saying he does not sleep when they lose or, if he does get any sleep, wakes up in a cold sweat. Unlike the exorbitant salaries of other mainstay sports athletes in the U.S., the players’ salaries range from $20,000 to $160,000. The club’s top scorer, Robbie Findley, had as many goals in the regular season as did last year’s Major League Soccer MVP — and Findley’s only in his second year.

The team has overcome many obstacles and made the playoffs for the first time in the existence of the franchise last year. This year, they are back in the playoffs again against all odds. You know the cliche: success breeds success, and the fans and their passion have just as much to do with that as the team does. We have a special opportunity here in the Salt Lake area. We have a chance to be a part of a club taking root in the community while it is still young.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He is also dedicated Real Salt Lake fan.