Down Time, Talk Time

Soccer: The Religion

According to FIFA, the first governing body of football was the Football Association in England, 1863. (1994-2011 FIFA) That is almost 150 years ago that soccer officially began.  Of course, the concept of “foot”ball has been around for at least 2000 years, with “at least half a dozen different games, varying to different degrees, and to which the historical development of football has been traced back.” (1994-2011 FIFA) The Merriam-Webster online dictionary definition of “soccer” is “a game played on a field between two teams of 11 players each with the object to propel a round ball into the opponent’s goal by kicking or by hitting it with any part of the body except the hand and arms.” (2011 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) But the game of soccer can not just be defined as a simple dictionary definition because to most who play, watch, or follow this divinely profound game it means more than that. Soccer is not very popular in the United States, however, throughout other countries people show immense pride for this beautiful game, in fact some people even treat it as a religion.

Although I was born and raised in the U.S., I am one of those few Americans who love soccer and generally dislike most other sports.  Soccer has been a part of my life since I was five years old and will continue to stay a part of me. To me, soccer means a second chance.  Something that stays with you for so long, you don’t ever want to say goodbye to.  It is not like a cookie, a pair of shoes, or a high school boyfriend which leave you in a matter of seconds, minutes, hours, months, or years. You want it to be there forever. So, when I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus my freshman year of college, I thought I was going to be forced to say goodbye to soccer, causing me to break down in tears in the middle of my full-of-athletes training room.  I became depressed and thought my life was over, but after surgery, months of physical therapy, and hard work, soccer was still there, waiting for me, with open arms.  Without the faith-inspiring game I became a useless body. In the end, it gave me a second chance to continue living life as a happy, collegiate soccer player as I had always dreamt I would.  

Although the United States just recently formed Major League Soccer in 1997 soccer is still not a popular sport here. (International Soccer, International Soccer - United States)  In all truth, soccer in America is second-class and a sorry excuse for professional soccer. The importance and popularity of the game is no where near the significance of it in other countries all over the world. Soccer is supposed to be the world’s most popular sport. Just google “world’s most popular sport” and I guarantee that almost every link will say soccer, football, or fútbol. However, in the U.S. it is the least important, it is not liked compared to baseball, American football, or basketball, and is thought of as the poor man’s sport here.  Soccer is seen as the red headed step child, disliked and on his own. Not being the only one who dislikes America’s efforts in soccer pride, Kyle Sheahen, of The Cornell Daily Sun, writes about a U.S.- Mexico match in Arizona, 2007, stating that, “When the Mexican national anthem played, thousands of voices sang the lyrics in unison. When the American anthem played next, it was as if no one knew the lyrics.” (Kyle Sheahen, "What Soccer Means To America") He then speaks about the U.S.’s enthusiasm, “Despite the Americans’ anemic showing at the 2006 World Cup, soccer enthusiasm in Super Bowl nation has never been higher. Which means it is nestled somewhere between hot dog eating contests and hockey.” (Kyle Sheahen, "What Soccer Means To America")  Also, originating from South Africa, working for
TIME In Partnership with CNN, Tony Karon, in response to “How Soccer Explains the World” by Franklin Foer, says, “America’s professional soccer clubs, or “franchises,” as they’re uniquely known in the U.S., were created from scratch in the 1990s, and carry none of the encoded history of their European and Latin American counterparts. And support for the U.S. national soccer team is hardly an outlet for jingoistic nationalism.” (Tony Karon, "What Soccer Means To the World") So, in all efforts, if you are going to show interest in soccer, I advise that you watch and research non-American soccer because the United States does not know the true meaning of the word.

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. It also means more to the world then we’ll ever know. To play “football” that is literally all you need, a ball and your feet. Perhaps that is what it originates from. Children, women, and men play soccer without the special fields, expensive equipment, or fancy goals that are particularly essential to some sports in many nations. From Brazil to South Africa and Mexico to England it’s played with a passion, ogled with pride, and followed game-by-game with an intense obsession. This game provides people with faith and unity that might make some people cry. The 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea got the people extremely interested in the game, because national pride was overpowering that year. “The Sea of Red” is what it was called, South Korea’s fan base was off the charts, over the top, crazy high, and each of them wore red to the games. South Korea unified as a country on-account of coming in fourth place in 2002. It was their first time to pass the group stage ever. 

Soccer cannot be defined in one quick sentence like, “It’s a sport you play with your feet,” people live their lives through it, stand by it even in times of sorrow and chaos, and make it more then just a sport. Soccer unites people as a whole, saves lives, and creates faith more than any other sport in the world because it’s not just a sport, it’s a passion, a lifestyle, and a religion to most who know it well.

Works Cited

FIFA, prod. "History of Football- The Origins." FIFA.COM: Classic Football. FIFA, 2011. Web. 1 July

2011. <>.

"International Soccer: International Soccer- United States." Guides & Info to the Greatest Game Ever! Google, 2011. Web. 1 July 2011. <


Karon, Tony. "What Soccer Means to the World."
TIME in partnership with CNN. TIME Inc,, 21 July

2004. Web. 1 July 2011. <,8599,671302,00.html>.

Merriam-Webster. "Soccer."
Merriam-Webster. Britannica Company, 2011. Web. 1 July 2011.


Sheahen, Kyle. "What Soccer Mean to America."
The Cornell Daily Sun. The Cornell Daily Sun, 9 Feb.

2007. Web. 1 July 2011. <>.