Every four years, American soccer fans are getting better at agonizing over the World Cup. As I write in my new book, eight years ago in Germany I noticed the social media raging over the lineups of Bruce Arena. This was progress as a soccer nation.
Four years ago in South Africa I was aware of how fans exulted – electronically -- over the 91st-minute goal produced by the law firm of Howard, Donovan, Altidore, Dempsey and Donovan.
Now the greatest angst is over the exclusion of Donovan – that is not going away easily -- but there is also the growing sophistication on the fan sites about the fine-tuning being performed by Jurgen Klinsmann in three domestic friendlies. On Sunday, fans had the Wall Street buzz of watching the players' stock go up and down, virtually by the touch.
I was not immune as I watched Tim Chandler playing catchup at left back, getting a look in place of DaMarcus Beasley, who is a decade older. Chandler, who is right-footed, is more comfortable at right back but Klinsmann thinks he needs to upgrade at left back.
At one point Chandler darted forward, followed the play, caught up with a nice pass toward the left corner and centered it admirably, as the USA scored on a flubbed poke by Clint Dempsey.
That will raise Chandler’s stock, I thought.
But Chandler faded back to insecurity. In the 90th minute he made a mistake that led to a penalty goal for Turkey in a 2-1 victory for the USA.
Oops, a late-afternoon slide, as they say on the market channels.
I’m still a Beasley supporter. He plays the whole field and gives everything.
The USA will play one more friendly before heading to Brazil. The fans will be watching the market fluctuations.
In other countries, there is gnashing of teeth over exclusions and inclusions. Giuseppe Rossi, from New Jersey, did not make the Italian squad for the second straight World Cup. The kid tossed and lost in choosing his Italian passport over his American passport. There is still time for injuries to ruin four years, as Mexican and Italian players discovered this weekend.
To get into this growing American fascination with the rhythms of the World Cup, consult your favorite fan site, as well as:
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.