I have a complicated relationship with men’s professional soccer as a whole.
As an Oregon Native, I love me a Timbers win. I love when Seattle (and subsequently Vancouver) loses almost as much. As far as rivalries are concerned, being a fan of the Portland Timbers and wearing green and gold as an Oregon State Grad can be challenging. Oregon State’s rival, the University of Oregon’s school colors are scotch broom green and yellow, slightly different than the Timbers. As a Beaver, any instance of wearing green and yellow together raises an eyebrow and suspicion long before the context of Timbers allegiance registers by passersby so I typically avoid the color combination outside of Providence Park.
I saw an infographic some time ago that showed, by county in Oregon, the team preference of the University of Oregon vs. Oregon State Civil War and with the exception of Benton County where Oregon State is based out of, there was an overwhelming majority for the University of Oregon. As a Beaver grad, I’m accustom to rooting for the underdog.
Most days, my knowledge of soccer wins for my teams rarely expands beyond “Oh. Timbers tied at home today.” Or “Thorns won away 3-1.” If it’s a Thorns home game at Providence Park, there’s a decent chance I’m there in the stands but I rarely know stats beyond overall wins or if it’s close to playoffs, what score standings are needed to advance to the playoffs. I’m shaky at best at naming all the soccer positions (but am steadfast about soccer teams being comprised of 11 players and a few other crucial things) but I am far from a fanatic. I am also far from being someone who has grown up in a soccer culture all my life.
In the United States, soccer trails behind football, basketball, and baseball according to a recent Gallup Poll. But the composition of who is a modern-day soccer fan becomes interesting when broken down by age. According to the survey, “those who determine the future of spectator sports — 18- to 34-year-olds — are the age group least likely to favor football. But even among them, football tops all other sports by a comfortable margin. Soccer and baseball show meaningful differences by age, with soccer appealing more to adults younger than 55 and baseball more to adults aged 55 and older” and that’s a statistic I am very at home being a part of.
In a matter of minutes, the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final will begin between France and Croatia. This World Cup has been a doozy to say the least. Brazil got knocked out in the quarterfinals and the semi-finals were all European teams. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, some of the best players of all time will not be making appearances in the championship final. My guess is France is likely to win, but with the way things have unfolded this World Cup, Croatia could pull it off and a victory would be well earned.
While I’m slightly bummed that the United States Men’s National Team failed to qualify in this World Cup and kind of sucks overall (Vox’s words), the fact that I have cheered for multiple teams to advance over the last few weeks reminds me of some of the strengths of soccer—bringing people together in spectatorship wrapped up in almost, if not more, national pride than food and as uniting or divisive as policy- foreign or domestic.
I’m currently watching the opening minutes of this final game from Tagbilaran City in the Philippines, almost seven thousand miles from home. Three years ago, I watched the US Women’s National Team win the final from my then-apartment in Cebu and before that I watched a game with family in the Monkey Room in NYC when Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup. Before that, games of the 2010 World Cup hosted in South Africa with family just down the street from the house I grew up in.
I realize few things in life are constant. Time moving on at a steady pace is one of them, but so is a Men’s FIFA World Cup every four years, and a Women’s FIFA World Cup the following year (and also every four years) and somewhere in there, every four years the Summer Olympics brings yet another international display of athleticism and soccer prowess to the forefront where more people are brought together by one world event than most others. To some extent, many life events happen in and around notable soccer events, World Cups or Olympics, and I find comfort in that, even if my country’s team isn’t competing on the world stage, hazy memories are cataloged between bookends of soccer events and not just presidencies or where I am in education.
Maybe someday I will get to experience an international professional soccer on my home turf. With North America hosting the 2026 World Cup, it’s certainly a possibility and something I hope I might get to someday cross off my bucket list. The 2019 Women’s FIFA World Cup is in France. I doubt I’ll be there in person, but I hope I can carry on this semi-tradition of collecting diverse and faraway places where I can catch a World Cup Game or two on the TV. I hear Quebec, a French-speaking province, is nice in July. Maybe I’ll watch the 2019 Women’s Championship from a time zone more in sync with the host country.
Anyways, it might be useful to know the time difference between Paris and the West Coast, USA is nine hours.