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Soccer in German-American Relations

1. Celebrating German-American Friendship!
The Berlin chapter of the Fulbright Alumni e.V. invites everybody to a German-American Soccer World Cup Game Watching Party for the match USA vs. Italy. The party will start on Saturday, June 17th, 8:00 pm at Rock Berlin, Immanuelkirchstr.14.  Stephan
Meyer-Brehm is one of the organizers and appreciates feedback from any potential participants by June 11th, "so we won't suddenly run out of beer… (If you should desire to make a – voluntary – financial contribution, a short notice is also most welcome.)" Stephan was a Fulbrighter at the University of Texas at Austin in 1985/86 and can be reached at "stephan AT"
2. Understanding German-American Differences and U.S. exceptionalism!
Andrei Markovits: Offside: Soccer and American ExceptionalismAndrei Markovits: Im Abseits. Fußball in der amerikanischen Sportkultur Fulbright Alumnus Andrei S. Markovits is the author of Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism  / Im Abseits. Fussball in der amerikanischen Sportkultur. I have not read this book, but his other books on Germany and U.S.-German relations are very good and easy to read for non-experts as well.
Markovits is a renown political science professor at Ann Arbor and currently the Gambrinus Visiting Professor of Soccer and Sport Studies at the University of Dortmund. He will lecture about "Soccer in America: Unique among American Sports, Unique in the International Arena of Team Sports" at the Free University of Berlin's John F. Kennedy Institute on June 13, 2006, 2:00-4:00 PM.
Prof. Markovits explains on his homepage:
Soccer is the world's favorite pastime, a passion for billions around the globe. In the United States, however, the sport is a distant also-ran behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Why is America an exception? And why, despite America's leading role in popular culture, does most of the world ignore American sports in return? Offside is the first book to explain these peculiarities, taking us on a thoughtful and engaging tour of America's sports culture and connecting it with other fundamental American exceptionalisms. In so doing, it offers a comparative analysis of sports cultures in the industrial societies of North America and Europe.
Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino comes up with ten funny reasons why soccer isn't a beloved sport in America.
3. Are Americans ignorant of the greatest game on the face of the earth ;-) ?
The Foreign Policy magazine's blog links to a GMI poll that says "56% of American World Cup fans do not know that the 2006 Soccer World Cup will take place in Germany, and only 1 in 10 plans to follow the game." I think they misspelled and polled all Americans rather than just American World Cup fans. They give it a negative twist, but I think the numbers are remarkable and prove that soccer is becoming more popular in the US. I am not sure if the enthusiastic Independent Sources Blog is ignorant of history or trying to be funny: 
The U.S. may not even make it to the round of 16 this time, but that will be a minor setback. As Wells failed to note, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No. We eventually won that one too.
Soccer has been more popular in U.S. than President Bush and many Americans think it is. In an interview with Bild (White House transcript), President Bush said:
I never saw soccer as a young boy. We didn't play it where I was from. It just didn't exist. I can't even -- I'm thinking about all the -- between age six, when I can remember sports, and 12 or 13, I just never saw soccer being played. And so there's a generation of us that really weren't fanatic. There's a new generation of Americans that did grow up on soccer. And there's obviously a huge interest amongst that crowd in the World Cup. And some of us older guys are now beginning to understand the significance of the World Cup around the world.
Although President Bush is learning the importance of soccer, Grahame Jones, soccer writer for the LA Times, is angry and describes President Bush as ignorant of the "rich" soccer traditions of New Haven, Connecticut, where George W. Bush was born, as well as the similarly rich heritage of Texas, where he was governor. Via: Global Game.

UPDATE: The United States Embassy created a special world cup site
and describes  the popularity of soccer in the U.S.:
Registration on U.S. Youth Soccer Association teams climbed approximately 90 percent to nearly 3.2 million players in 2002-03 from 1990-91. The number of adult soccer players has also increased approximately 80 percent to more than 5 million since 1987. Statistics also show that while interest in other sports is declining, there is increasing interest in Soccer. The number of total Soccer participants (6-years plus) in 2003 was 17,679,000.
World Cup related post: Congressman accuses Germany of "Complicity in Promoting Sex Trafficking"

UPERDATE: A great German World Cup News Blog in English.
Our reader DJ Walker, who also runs the excellent Footballs are Round blog, informed us in a comment that the quote about Germans having bombed Pearl Harbor is a reference to the movie Animal House. Thanks!


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Atlantic Review on : America is expected to win the Super Bowl

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;-) Slate Magazine: According to my research, "football" is very popular among my fellow Americans. It sort of resembles chess, but with a lot more physical contact. Today is, like, the biggest day of the year for football enthusiasts.American


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alec on :

One point to differ on: hockey is NOT that popular in America. It is in Canada. I would say hockey is maybe a little more popular than soccer. The only other really 'global' sport is tennis, which Americans are equal fans of as anyone else in the world. Also, you should note that a lot of sports are divided by regionalism: polo & cricket are really only popular in Great Britain and former colonies. Hockey to the Scandinavian and Eastern European nations (including Russia).

T_Robert on :

"One point to differ on: hockey is NOT that popular in America. It is in Canada." I think your comment isn't precise enough. I definitely wouldn't say that hockey is not popular in America, I would say that it is popular in the northern, colder part of the American continent, which includes the northern states of the US as well as all of Canada. Anyone who has spent time in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or New England knows that the sport holds its own with the "big three" of football, baseball and basketball.

joe on :

Given, as has been pointed out, most Americans don't know where any nation is located in the world, why would you think they would know something about this?

John on :

I think Australia is probably one of the most sports-mad countries in the world, and yet soccer (we call it that as well) is only the 4th most popular football code here - behind Australian football, rugby union and rugby league. The press are trying really hard to get everyone excited about the fact that our team has qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 30+ years, and the national soccer federation is working to get us to call it 'football' rather than 'soccer'. This seems really childish given that there's already two different sports that are called 'football' here, depending on which part of the country you're in - so adding an extra one to that list just doesn't make a lot of sense. I think the image problem soccer has in Australia was best summed up by Johnny Warren, a rell-known Aussie soccer player and commentator, who titled his autobiography "Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters" (Aussie slang for "women, foreigners and homosexuals"), because those are the people who have traditionally been seen as the main audience for soccer in this country (there's a review of the book at I don't think it's American exceptionalism at all. In the case of Australia, we had our own version of football codified before soccer became popular, and there are a couple of Australian football teams surprisingly prominent in the list of the oldest football teams in the world ( Soccer was a game played mainly by immigrants who came after World War 2, and never managed to replace the three more established codes as our 'football' of choice.

Joerg on :

That's very interesting. Thank you!

DJ Walker on :

So, if (and it's a big if) the United States can conceivably make it to the semifinals, what are the odds President Bush will go to Germany and try to soak up some of that good feeling and make political capital? With any luck, Iran will do well and Bush will bump into Ahmadinejan in the bathroom or something.

Joerg on :

Such a meeting would be pretty cool! The US team ranks fourth on the FIFA list. They got a good chance to make it to the semifinals. I am not so sure about Iran, but anything is possible. I just read that German coach Klinsmann used Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" for a presentation, because he thinks it describes exactly the situation of the national team: "Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted - in one moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?" I doubt whether Bush and Ahmadinejad are capable of seizing this one opportunity to start improving relations, if they get the chance at the World Cup, but it is a nice thought.

DJ Walker on :

4th is a very generous ranking. A more accurate indicator is the fact that Mexico is the seeded team from out region. We're probably a top 20 team, with an outside shot of advancing to the semis. Did you know Jurgen Klinsmann lives in southern California, and has been commuting back and forth to Germany in preparation for the World Cup? Kind of makes everybody else's commuting woes seem kind of tame, doesn't it?

Anonymous on :

It does. Klinsmann received a lot of criticism for staying in the US. How do the FIFA rankings work anyway?

Anonymous on :

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote a very interesting op-ed [url=]Clear scores, level playing fields and global appeal: why the UN envies the World Cup[/url]

littleandy on :

"As Wells failed to note, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" IIRC, it were the Japans who bombed Pearl Harbor. Of course they were allied with the Germans. Just wanted to mention it ;-)

DJ Walker on :

The FIFA rankings are a mixture of results in international friendlies, world cup qualifiers, and past performances in international tournaments. The US being ranked 4th is skewed by the relatively easy competition in our region, as opposed to other countries who have less impressive results, but much tougher competition. littleandy - "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor" is reference to the movie "Animal House". John Belushi says the line, and one of the other characters looks to the guy next to him and says "Germans?", and is given the reply "Don't stop him, he's on a roll".

Joekid on :

"Are Americans ignorant of the greatest game on the face of the earth?" I guess some Americans aren't big fans but we did invent the greatest game on earth (American Football - NFL) and most Americans at least know it exists and its basic concepts. Personally, I've been partial to the New England Patriots for decades. I mean, what better name could a team have? Just being snarky and poking a bit of fun. Here's to all y'all having a blast during World Cup. All sports are good and worthy and although there's no chance in hell I'd ever be a fan of soccer (not enough physical contact) I can appreciate others enjoyment of the game.

DJ Walker on :

Not enough physical contact? You've never seen Argentina v Brazil.

Joerg on :

DJ Walker, thanks for explaining the "Germans bombing Pearl Harbor" reference. I have included it in the Upperdate and linked to your excellent blog.

Anonymous on :

I don't care enough about soccer to read an academic article about it, but I found Frank Cerabino's "Top 10" funny and on point. #5 & #6 were my favorites. However, when it comes to #1 (Americans don't like soccer because they didn't invent it), he should have done more research. He claims that "Football, baseball and basketball are American sports". Basketball was, in fact, invented by a Canadian: At least for the time being, Canadians are allowed to indulge in the idea that they have a separate country (even though roughly half of their population eventually joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live").

Raul A. Mora on :

Hi. Some points to consider about the Futbol (aka soccer) vs. other sports debate: 1. I remember reading somewhere something about cultural factors affecting Futbol's (aka Soccer's) popularity. The article pointed out 2 main points: a. Scoring: US fans like big scores. For them 0-0 doesn't make it, they need to read at least double digits to get excited, as well as see scoring multiple times. That also explains why hockey isn't that popular after all. Now, before you say, how about baseball? b. Statistics: US fans LOVE statistics. Futbol is not a stats-friendly sport, unlike baseball or football. That hasn't helped futbol increase its popularity. 2. A word about playtime: I've always said that I think futbol players have it harder than basketball or American football players. Think of this: Am. Football: 60 minutes of actual play; basketball: 48 minutes; futbol: 90 minutes. In addition: football and basketball have time outs, so there's time when ALL players can stay still... futbol only gets a "time out" when a player is injured (of course, one can argue that some players feign injuries to have such time outs). Now, basketball and football have unlimited substitutions; futbol only gives you 3. Football has about 60-80 players on a roster, and 22 players on the field (unlike say rugby, where all players must attack or defend). If you think about it, a football player might only spend between 30-45 minutes of actual playing time, and they don't have to run up and down the field, like futbol or basketball players. 3. One final thing to add to this discussion is the actual value of playing for your country, as is the case of the FIFA World Cup: In most countries, athletes are trained to believe that the biggest HONOR there is is to make it to the national team, regardless of the sport. In futbol, aside from making it to the big leagues (Italy, England, Spain), going to the World Cup remains as the largest honor for these athletes. That explains why players in the Liga Espanola, Serie A or the Premier League or Bundesliga are so into going to the World Cup: It's not so much about the money as it is the honor to represent their countries. The US athlete, on the other hand, does not grow up with that mentality. For them, it's all about making it to the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc. In fact, there's no honor in making it to the national team in ANY sport. Just think about, for example, how NBA players are so nonchalant about the Olympics. In fact, it is reported that NBA owners have objected to their international athletes representing their home countries in international competition. After all, they're in the NBA, what else could they want in life? National pride? Who cares! Also, look at the recent World Baseball Classic: Major leaguers from Venezuela, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico were ecstatic about playing for their countries; US players? Many didn't play because God forbid they break a nail and lose their MLB contracts. That's why there's such little interest in the World Cup... Most US athletes, at least in the major sports, don't have that sense of national pride that futbol players still have. For them, it is REALLY all about the Benjamins! Of course, we need to add to the equation the apparent disregard for the rest of the world that the average US citizen seems to have. That kind of reminds me about a comment I watched today on "The Colbert Report": Stephen Colbert pointed out how the "World Cup" seems to be the only sports event where "World" actually includes other countries than the US, as opposed to the "World Series" or the NBA "World Champions".

Avi Green on :

Some differences between the US and Europe are that, in the US, the American version of football, which is with an almost diamond-shaped ball that needs to be run across a goal line, is more popular than soccer, while in Europe, this form of sport is less played and less known. In my opinion, soccer is better, because there's more legwork being used than in football, and the rules aren't nearly as restrictive. That's why soccer is a [b]much[/b] better sport.

Rosemary on :

Today is the 19th, so I'm a little late. lol. It is wonderful to find out that the government is actually taking notice! Have a great time.

Don on :

"As Wells failed to note, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No. We eventually won that one too." If Wells had noted it I might have concluded that it was Wells who was bombed - rather than Pearl Harbor. Far be it from me to resist an opportunity to villify the Germans - but the Deutsch had no aircraft carriers. Ever. It was the Japanese..... ;)

Rick on :

Re: Germans bombing Pearl Harbor - Has nobody seen the movie "Animal House"? That's where that line is from. The author is, I'm sure, well aware that it was the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor In "Animal House", John Belushi makes a speech in which he says "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No!" It's a joke, folks. A pop-culture reference. Sheesh.

ADMIN on :

Thanks. Weird humor. Well anyway: Other readers have pointed it out already. There is already an Upperdate acknowledging that it was a movie reference. But thanks anyway.

Michael Crug on :

Well anyway: Other readers have pointed it out already. There is already an Upperdate acknowledging that it was a movie reference. But thanks anyway.

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