I really enjoy both varieties of ‘football’

Published 6:08pm Tuesday, June 10, 2014

After spending much of my life living in the South, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I love college football. However, it’s a bit more unusual that I also enjoy the game that the rest of the world calls “football.”

I’m referring, of course, to the sport that we call “soccer.” The 2014 World Cup kicks off Thursday in Brazil, as the 32 top national teams in the world play in a tournament to determine the best soccer team.

It is one of the most popular television events in the world. A total of 715.1 million people watched the championship final in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. For comparison, a little more than 90 million watched the Super Bowl that same year. Of course, that popularity abroad has not always been matched in the U.S.

I realize that there are many people out there who find that soccer is boring or low-scoring. I’ll admit that there does seem something wrong with having a tie in a game. But I also think that any sports fan should at least give one of the World Cup games a chance. You might be surprised at how entertaining it is.

There isn’t always a lot of scoring, but that doesn’t mean there’s no action. A great save by a goalkeeper can be just as exciting as a scored goal. It’s thrilling to watch the strikers come down the field (or “pitch,” as the rest of the world says) with all the momentum, setting up a scoring attack with precise passes and timing.

And if a game is tied and it’s in the later “knockout” rounds, then it’s hard to beat a penalty kick shootout for drama.

Of course, I’m probably a little biased because I played the game as a kid. I have also been lucky enough to see a quality match live, when the U.S. and Argentina played in the 1996 Olympics in a preliminary game held at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Now that Atlanta is getting an MLS team, I’ll definitely be getting a ticket to see a game there as soon as I can.

Of course, any sporting event is better when the U.S. does well. Our team has a tough slate, though, facing off against Ghana, Portugal and Germany in a so-called “Group of Death.” Teams must finish in the top two in their four-team groups, in order to advance.

However, this U.S. team has surprised in the past and might be able to advance. I know I’ll be watching, to see if they can “shock the world.”

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