The Rio Report

USA could teach England a thing or two about football/soccer

The Rio Report

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Us English sports fans dislike an awful lot of other nations, but perhaps the bunch to get it worst from us are the Americans.

The majority here hate American sports. They hate American sporting culture. They hate how they decide major championships with play-offs after someone has already topped the league. They hate tailgate parties, even if boozing in a decrepit boozer from 9am on a Saturday just because is equally tawdry.

They hate the terminology, the timings of the season, how short some seasons are, how long some seasons are, and in recent years, how they try to embrace ‘our’ sports as well.

The thing English fans appear to complain about most when it comes to American sports fans, however, is how enthusiastic and passionate they are.

Not to say English sports lack enthusiasm and passion, of course. But that’s what makes this gripe even more unfathomable. Apparently, America are just doing enthusiasm and passion wrong.

But, guess what? If the World Cup – the pinnacle of England’s favourite sport by a country mile – has shown us anything thus far this year, it’s that the Americans are actually doing it right.

Although soccer (a term coined over here, not over there) remains a pretender to the throne of the NFLs and NBAs of the North American spectrum, the manner in which Americans have embraced this 32-day festival of footie has been a joy to watch.

Indeed, while England continue to depress themselves on the international level week-in, week-out, USA are punching above their weight with the full backing of their people before, during and after each match.

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Some have been quick to knock the Americans for how passive they are about this sport for four years only to burst into life when the festival of football kicks off. But hindsight is suggesting that we could learn a thing or two from that.

That’s not to suggest we all stop caring about football until a major tournament is underway – the USNMT (United States National Men’s Team) attracts strong audiences for qualification ties often as England drawing the likes of San Marino and Liechtenstein.

And yet, over-analysis is nowhere to be found.

Nobody expects USA to reach the last-four, let alone win the World Cup. But I’ll bet the farm that when they are eliminated, the team will build from the experience rather than dwell on things, and the nation will get on with their lives until the next time their boys need them.

Fans, journalists and those inside the football industry over here criticise and lament and build themselves up for the next fall. And all three of those categories are quick to point the finger at the other two when we wonder why it has come to this.

The bad news is we’re all responsible. No evil media, no destructive fanbase, no entitled workforce –we come up short collectively.

When was the last time you saw a US soccer player/manager blame the fans or media? Or their fans accuse writers or footballers of having an agenda? Or the journalists going beyond the line of constructive criticism?

I guess many of us find that pathetic about them, too.

Just like so many English football fans I’ve spoken to find the popular American soccer chant pathetic. It goes like this:

I (I)

I believe (I believe)

I believe that (I believe that)

I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win

Actually, what’s pathetic is that England does not believe. We do not believe in ourselves and each other. And we fail, unlike the Americans, to see the line between being passionate and taking a sport we are merely watching others play far too seriously.

I know who I’ll be cheering for throughout the rest of the finals.

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And even if that turns out to be a matter of days – or hours – the party will no doubt continue, rather than evolve into a wake.

Those grumpy post-mortems are the enemy, not tail-gating, supporters’ sections, alternative terminology or anything else the US bring to the table.

They get soccer/football. Hopefully one day down the line, we will once again. And it doesn’t require a long-awaited major tournament win, or even another semi-final finish.

We just all need to start enjoying sport again, rather than embrace melancholy.

Now that's off my chest, I'm going to try and enjoy sport for the next two years and hope England can be as happy at not winning Euro 2016 as the US are at every tournament.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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