The notion that sport helps build character is a false one; sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it. And soccer reveals not only individual but also national character. As Eduardo Galeano famously noted, “Tell me how you play and I’ll tell you who you are” (209).
Soccer will never be a “major” American sport. So we have been told by numerous experts. But why is this?
The central pillars of American sports culture–American football,
baseball, and basketball, along with hockey–have enjoyed only a
limited global embrace, which has, I believe, entrenched their American
rather than universal characteristics. This in turn has helped consolidate a
wider American sports culture that finds soccer not merely foreign but
alien, both incomprehensible and reprehensible. (Goldblatt xi)
One major distinction between soccer in America and soccer in other countries has to do with the socioeconomic status of those who play the game. In other countries, soccer is the game of the people, of the masses. With the exception of immigrant populations, soccer in America is played and followed by those with money (Foer 238).
I coach soccer, and I have done so for nearly ten years now. What have I learned? I have learned Sepp Herberger’s words are true: “The ball is round. The game lasts ninety minutes. This much is fact. Everything else is theory” (qtd. in Goldblatt xiii).