“Real” Woman Playing “Real” Soccer
“How come you don’t write about woman’s soccer Joe? You know the world cup and all that?” Fair question, I’m thinking. The truth is I don’t know a great deal about the woman’s game, in terms of personalities and history or standings and so on. Oh sure, I’ve known about Mia Hamm for years – well hasn’t everybody that watches any television or reads any magazine? But I can’t name two other players on the US team. Maybe two Canadians, if I tried. And you know I don’t know any of the Nigerians either. OK, I don’t know one other world class female soccer player. At least I’m honest. Yet it was no surprise to me to read about 79,000 fans attending the first US game. I did know that the woman’s world cup had come of age and the atmosphere would be “real”
So I decided to jump on the bandwagon and cheer on the States this evening and sat down to watch the US versus Nigeria Group game that could put either team into the quarterfinals and allow them a little breather in their respective third matches. Both teams had won their openers and this would be a good test of America’s ambitions. After a couple of minutes I wasn’t disappointed as Nigeria lead and the game looked “on” But it didn’t last long. Reality struck in the shape of 6 (six) first half goals from Mia and company and the game as a contest was over before it was half over, if you follow me. There was slightly more entertainment in the inevitable Adidas advertisements, at this juncture. Since half of my regular readership is female, (my Mom), I’m not going to fall into the offside trap of telling you that men wouldn’t let in those goals, and men’s games have two halves, and men tackle harder, and men control the ball better, and men play “real” soccer, and eat “real” quiche, and so on ad nauseum.
The truth is this was entertaining. This was commitment of a high caliber. And to be fair, Nigeria didn’t quite capitulate as the score suggests. They continued to try and play their own game in a robust, disciplined sort of way while being outclassed. The US performance was impressive. Their support of each other was exemplary. They kept their cool. They took the fouls and didn’t resort to similar tactics in the way it is almost expected to fight fire with fire. They truly responded where it hurts the most – the scoreboard via their opponent’s goalmouth. I was genuinely impressed with their fitness and effort and teamwork, and I’m not showing my ignorance here. I was expecting fitness, effort and teamwork. The second half performance was textbook boringly professional as they protected the result and the Nigerians showed a little more resolve in defence. The Americans did ice the cake with a beautifully executed seventh goal towards the finish to leave their fans rejoicing. It will be a pleasure to see if they can carry it all the way.
One way or another I am certain to know a lot more about the woman’s game by the time the competition concludes, and you will too. I wonder if Mia might give me a call. I have a feeling she might. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not her ringing right now……