Direct Rays

From Foosball to World Cup Business is Booming on USA Pitches

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My state-of-the-art foosball table has sat in our basement for the better part of the last 15 years, dusty and rusty, waiting for the rods to be rolled, if even by the most disorderly “spinner,” something frowned upon nearly as much as faking injuries by the diving prima donna in real soccer, er, uh futbol.

I could play foosball on a near-professional level – by SUNY Oneonta standards – for the better part of the ‘80s and could still kick butt when called upon to this day (given a day or two to practice). Problem is, nobody gave a rat’s bum or gave the table a second look until this past weekend when my son’s gang of wannabe hooligans (JK!) gathered around – and could not get off – the table after the United States pulled a scoreless draw with England in Friday’s World Cup at Qatar #PropsToUSA.

All five of these 12-to-14-year-olds admitted to anxiously watching that World Cup game, something they hadn’t done before.

Soccer, as we call it in the states, will have a tough time matching American football – the National Football League – in popularity in the United States. The NFL is the current king, dyed-in-the-wool wounds and all. There’s nothing taking down the king in the foreseeable future, unless the league becomes overly political.

Yet, somehow, the beleaguered FIFA and USA men’s soccer program has presently galvanized the U.S., almost like our nation’s women’s program has for the past two decades. While the U.S. ladies have long been the best in the world, unfortunately it’ll likely take a prominent showing from both groups, men and women, before the great game captures the entire country’s imagination.

That said, the belly screams in my basement Saturday night and the clamoring for my Irish-brogued play-by-play commentary, and their want to better understand the game of soccer can only further the cause and help spur the notion that soccer can and will eventually challenge for a space among the Big 4 – NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL. Maybe even forge a Big 5, and once that happens, soccer will storm the states.

You heard it here first, maybe second, but it will eventually happen and Section 1 schools and coaches like perennial powers Somers, Byram Hills, Yorktown, Lakeland, reigning state champ Haldane, Briarcliff, Ossining, White Plains and many of those in Dutchess County will say about the great game of soccer: “We told you so!” #HereHere!

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