The World Cup begins tomorrow and the United States, simultaneously famous for its cultural diversity and its exclusive use of the word “soccer”, is having something of an identity crisis. Among soccer fans attending the US’ final warmup game against Nigeria, a fan contingent that calls itself the American Outlaws began making waves simply by discussing the event in distinctly non-American terms. “They were the ones talking about the pitch (field) and the kit (jerseys) and the supporters (themselves) and who, when compelled to use the word soccer, were putting it in invisible quotation marks.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Completely unlike the rest of the world, soccer has long been something of an underground sport in the US. The jerseys are unrecognizable to most sports fans, the professional team names don’t conjure up storied legacies, and the professional soccer league’s star players are not really stars by most standards. Yet the world’s most popular sport–call it what you will–is making inroads at the community level. The new American soccer culture is multicultural, multilingual, and more comfortable than usual with South American and European traditions.