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  • An American View: The unfairness of it all


    By Jason Davis of Match Fit USA

    There’s the usual kinda of soccer disappointment - your team loses a big match, maybe to a hated rival, maybe in the dying minutes, making your soul ache for days over the “unfairness of it all” - and there’s the kind Americans felt on Thursday morning.

    The usual kind of soccer disappointment is a product of sporting chance; even if we’re positive our side is the better one, too many things can go wrong in a match. Unless it’s down to getting screwed by referee incompetence, angst is directed towards our players, our coach, or - the easiest target of all - management. If we suck, it’s probably because someone isn’t doing their job. Losing stinks, but it’s understandable, and there’s probably no shady cabal working behind closed doors to keep us down.


    The special, FIFA-administered kind of soccer disappointment isn’t part of the game we love, it’s part of the distasteful business of administering it. Everyone has their hands out, transparency and unicorns exist in equal measure and when you get screwed, you get royally screwed. I don’t think it’s out of bounds to think “we’re giving the World Cup to the tiny country with lots of money but no soccer history, brain-melting summer temperatures, and laws that make the usual party atmosphere difficult to imagine” is a tough result to swallow. And not in the dodgy-penalty-in-extra-time kind of way

    Let’s lay some things out here at the top, lest anyone get the wrong idea. It was never a foregone conclusion, and we never assumed it was. Of course we were confident in the quality of the bid - hell, we have big, appropriate stadiums coming out of every orifice - but never did we think FIFA “owed” the US a World Cup, nor were we sure that FIFA would “do the right thing” (from a technical perspective). The doubt was substantial, and though I can’t speak for all American soccer fans, I feel comfortable saying we could have stomached a defeat under different circumstances.

    If we were angry before Saturday because the vote was clearly tainted and Qatar has so many issues to overcome, we’re livid after. Rotund, hirsute Chuck Blazer, the only American on the Executive Committee and CONCACAF’s number two official, might have turned his back on his home nation in Thursday’s vote (there’s just one source on this using the word “suggestions”, and Chuck is denying it, but give us our scapegoat, will ya?). Really, Chuck? Is your “friendship” with Trinidad Jack so important that you have no qualms about trading your loyalty? Or were your hands cold and you needed a few more ducats to line the pockets of your surprisingly cheap-looking wardrobe? The dagger, Chuck, she is so deep.

    Eventually, and who knows how long it will take, we’ll get over the loss of 2022 and move on. The problem, of course, is that a World Cup twelve years in the future would have given the game a sizable boost in the United States. It might not have really mattered until 2020 or so, but there’s something to be said for having the calendar highlighted.. Those tasked with selling the sport need all the help they can get. Sponsors gravitate towards big events, investment is easier to secure when there’s an anchor point.

    The “where do we go from here” question is a tricky one, partly because - like I said above - we weren’t necessarily counting on winning. Surely the boys in Chicago (US Soccer) and New York (MLS) have strategic initiatives sitting on their hard drives that are now nothing but the Digital Age equivalent of paperweights, but if they weren’t prepared for this possibility, losing the bid to host a World Cup twelve years away is the least of our concerns. We’re still running the marathon, we just know now we won’t be getting that special energy formula from the men in the FIFA vests. The best way to answer “where do we go from here” is to say “keep doing what we’re doing.”

    Because the truth is an American World Cup wouldn’t be a magic bullet. Soccer’s struggle in the United States is a cultural one, one of small strides from year-to-year and making sure to hang around long enough for the stigma that unfairly clings to it to wear off. It’s getting sportstalk radio to include soccer in the general conversation, kids to stick with the game past the age of twelve, and ESPN to make up its mind about truly treating soccer (especially the domestic kind) as an important product. When drive-time blowhards aren’t using soccer as a whipping boy but are actually covering the big stories and ESPN isn’t following up soccer broadcasts with talking head shows that take shots at the sport, then some progress will have been made. It’s debatable that a World Cup, twelve years and counting away, could have done much to effect that change. Mostly, it’s just waiting those people out.

    American soccer will be just fine, in the same way it’s just fine now. If you buy what I’m selling - that the World Cup here in twelve years wouldn’t have had some kind of transformative impact but might have sped things along just a bit - then we can all just go about our business knowing that soccer isn’t going anywhere and will probably continue a slow upward arc. Disappointment is fleeting, especially when there are games to be played, stadiums to build, kids to coach, and our own internal issues to address. As the sport grows, World Cup or not, things will only get more complicated. Especially when MLS is involved.

    Hell, maybe in the end, FIFA has steeled our resolve. Charity just makes people soft. Disappointment builds character. Yeah, let’s go with that.

    Jason Davis of the brilliant Match Fit USA will be contributing occasional articles to provide Canadians with An American View of the issues that affect North American soccer.

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