“Not all soccer-haters are clichÃ©-recycling hacks” insists The Guardian’s Philadelphia-based Steven Wells. Which must mean that quite a few of them are clichÃ©-recycling hacks.
Meet radio show host Jim Rome. Jim – a short man with a Village People biker moustache – is the pope of soccerphobia. “My son is not playing soccer, ” promises Jim. “I will hand him ice skates and a shimmering sequinned blouse before I hand him a soccer ball.” Jim’s soccerphobia is part of a grand tradition of crassly xenophobic, casually homophobic, tediously sexist and smugly pig-ignorant soccer-bashing in mainstream American sports journalism. As Sport Illustrated’s soccer-friendly Alexander Wolff put it: “There isn’t a US daily without a ‘soccer stinks’ beat guy”.
Fifa regards the USA as the most “soccer-populous” nation on the planet, 20 million play it, blah blah blah. But more than that, soccer is infused into American mainstream culture – into its movies, sit-coms, cartoon strips and novels. Into the warp and weave of everyday American life. In some places the black-and-white-panelled soccer ball decal is nearly as ubiquitous as the stars and stripes flag. Soccer is as American as McDonald’s Apple Pie. And that’s what really pisses off the soccerphobes.
Far from being un-American, soccer is fast becoming the quintessential American sport. And the time will come when, in the words of US journalist Sasha Polakow-Suransky, “the anti-soccer crowd might finally realise that their mom-and-apple-pie crusade against the beautiful game could ultimately backfire or, even worse, be labelled un-American.”
America’s soccerphobes no longer speak for America. They are a frightened, ignorant, embattled and increasingly bitter minority – an ugly coalition of young fogies, laddish homophobes, snarling misogynists, neo-con nogoodniks and gobbledygook-spewing, tin-foil-hat-wearing, knuckle-gnawing nutjobs.