Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Moving Past, Moving Forward After the 2022 Bid Failure

On Thursday morning we watched with bated breath for FIFA's 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts announcement. And in a single moment our hopes for the United States to be the home for the world's largest sporting spectacle in 12 years time vanished like a fart in the wind.

When Sepp Blatter pulled "Qatar" out of that plain white envelope my heart sank. I was gutted. In my head (and the feeling in my stomach) I immediately flashed back to the moment the whistle blew for full time against Ghana. All the promise, the hope, the excitement... gone. For both you're left wondering what could've been.

In 1994 I was 12 years-old. I came to the sport late; this was the first year I touched a soccer ball. I didn't even know the World Cup was in the United States. My family wasn't a soccer family. I became, in a sense, a soccer pioneer. My introduction to the spot would lead to both my sisters playing and motivate my father, a red-bloodied football and basketball guy, to first paint every line on every field in town (just to get to know the sport) and later to roam those same chalk lines as a coach.

For me 1994 was an opportunity missed. One, that even if I had gone, I probably wouldn't have comprehended what I was a part of. Knowing this, though, made it all the more important and special for the World Cup to return to the U.S.

That was all for naught. We can dwell on the unfairness of it all; that the U.S. bid was the safest, most prepared, projected to be the best attended and most profitable. We can dwell on the suspicion of the payoffs and corruption of the process. But what is done is done.

At the end of the day, and everday, the World Cup in 2022 is in Qatar and not America.

So where do we go from here? We move forward. Strength in defeat.

If we're learned anything from our lost bid is that, as supporters of the beautiful game in the United States we have a long way to go. The journey of soccer in America has never been easy nor straight forward.

The United States has a long and complicated history with soccer, but not hosting the World Cup in 2022, while it would have been a major boost to the sport here, will not deter its overall upward movement.

Jason Davis (of the wonderful American soccer site Match Fit USA), writing for Canadian Soccer News, said it best:
The best way to answer “where do we go from here” is to say “keep doing what we’re doing.”

Because the truth is an American World Cup wouldn’t be a magic bullet. Soccer’s struggle in the United States is a cultural one, one of small strides from year-to-year and making sure to hang around long enough for the stigma that unfairly clings to it to wear off. It’s getting sportstalk radio to include soccer in the general conversation, kids to stick with the game past the age of twelve, and ESPN to make up its mind about truly treating soccer (especially the domestic kind) as an important product. When drive-time blowhards aren’t using soccer as a whipping boy but are actually covering the big stories and ESPN isn’t following up soccer broadcasts with talking head shows that take shots at the sport, then some progress will have been made. It’s debatable that a World Cup, twelve years and counting away, could have done much to effect that change. Mostly, it’s just waiting those people out.

American soccer will be just fine, in the same way it’s just fine now. If you buy what I’m selling - that the World Cup here in twelve years wouldn’t have had some kind of transformative impact but might have sped things along just a bit - then we can all just go about our business knowing that soccer isn’t going anywhere and will probably continue a slow upward arc. Disappointment is fleeting, especially when there are games to be played, stadiums to build, kids to coach, and our own internal issues to address. As the sport grows, World Cup or not, things will only get more complicated. Especially when MLS is involved.

Hell, maybe in the end, FIFA has steeled our resolve. Charity just makes people soft. Disappointment builds character. Yeah, let’s go with that.
We as supporters of the American game need to just keep on truckin'. The 1994 World Cup brought soccer in the States out of the ashes, launched Major League Soccer, and began that rise of the Men's National Team from international laughing stock to perennial qualifier and up-and-comer on the world's stage.

We've come too far to let Qatar 2022 get us down or hold us back.

John Santos, Los Angeles Chapter Head of the American Outlaws penned a brief on the AO site imploring everyone to "just keep swimming":
There will be victories, and there will be losses. But lets not forget the progress our favorite sport and our national teams have made.

This isn’t the time to stop believing in Soccer, it’s time to start supporting it even more. If the national team is in town (regardless of gender or age) get to the stadium come hell or high water. Wear your best United States gear on a date, to church, to school, at your graduation, etc.. If you live near an MLS team, go support it at least a couple of times a season. Same for the WPS. If an international club team comes town to play yours, be sure you stand by your club to show people that you care about Soccer in this country. Get out there and show your pride in our sport anyway you can.
These are the times where being a part of something like the American Outlaws or the Free Beer Movement is crucial. To be a member in something that is helping as AO puts it "strengthening and uniting" American soccer fans and the sport as a whole. The greater the fan base, the greater the passion, the greater the community means the greater the sport in the United States. A cold beer can do that all.

And last, but not least, the best way to move on from such World Cup bid disappointments is to just "win the whole damn thing" says Sean McElroy at "Yanks Are Coming":
Let's act like the world power that we are. Lets beat the shit out of whatever shitty CONCACAF teams Warner throws at us. Dempsey scoring 6 on St. Lucia. With 50,000 American fans screaming at the tiny island nation’s pathetic national team? Lets have a manager who goes up at the press conference before our World Cup quarterfinal against England and says, “Well, England may have some good players, but I think that we can definitely outplay them.” It doesn’t matter if it isn’t true. What matters is that we stop whining about how the United States is some sorry ass little third world country who plays soccer like fucking Qatar. No, we play like Americans, and that means we play to kick your ass. Period. So here is what we do to make the United States a team that truly embodies the ass-kicking spirit that makes America so wonderful.
America endures and so does its soccer community. The best way to move past this all?

Move forward.

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  1. nice. well done as always. Fuck Qatar and the ex-com dudes.

  2. Nice post this is really very interesting post.

  3. Awesome and inspiring column! The decision for Qatar felt like being dumped by someone you were truly in love with. It is time for American soccer fans to move on, and come back with a swagger that says "You can't keep us down for long!"

  4. Great writing. Yes it is time to get a real manager and go to win every game the U.S. plays. If a coach doesn't know who the best players are without running a hundred thru camp time to get a new coach.


"Anyone who tells me soccer is boring, I'm going to punch them in the face."
- Former Dallas Burn (aka FC Dallas) coach Dave Dir

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