What some journalists and some viewers can learn from the Women’s Soccer World Cup

While reading the reports of the soccer guru’s about the women’s soccer world cup final this morning, it saw myself forced to write a few words about a sport still most Americans don’t understand. That includes, as sad as it is, a group of people that should actually focus on soccer education while reporting on important soccer events. I am talking about some soccer journalists. They wear titles like “12 year veteran of the American soccer beat” and “Best Football writer” and other. I do understand that not every article can be as good as the other, but when it comes to writing about important events, you need to know what you are talking about and be aware of the consequences your article might have. Here is an example: If I am a Plumber and have to educate a group of medical students on heart surgery, there might be a catastrophe luring for the doctors association.

If you want to educate people on soccer, or inform, you must know what you are talking about. The game between the U.S. and Japan yesterday was one of the most intriguing soccer games I have ever seen, and I have seen and played a lot. The overwhelming majority of the reports are accurate and reflect what happened on the field. Around the world, the real experts are on common ground, it was a great game and a great tournament. That some major soccer reporters in the U.S., tragically some that report on one of the biggest soccer web sites in the country, missed the boat on this, is, mildly expressed, sad. The catastrophe that is luring here is that the women’s professional league is on life support and might collapse on negative reporting. Don’t get me wrong, if it is bad, it needs to be reported. In this case, however, the performance of the women was absolutely world class and deserves recognition as such. Not sure what these so called experts were watching, but it was certainly not the women’s world cup.

If you report and read about soccer, and you lack involvement and participation in the sport, here are a few things you must know:

  1. Unlike other sports in the U.S., soccer is a global sport. The entire world is playing soccer. Therefore, there is a risk that someone else is really good at it and claims the world cup title.
  2. You need to understand the importance of soccer. This has nothing to do on whether you like the sport or not. Soccer is just a part of public life in many countries and can influence a country’s and its people’s mood. Here is an example, while our motivation for this world cup was to “sell” the women’s pro-league, the Japanese were playing for their country that was rattled by a earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear catastrophe. They were hoping they can inspire their people not to give up. Yes, we all read about it, but it appears it is not understood that it really is like that. Keep in mind, this is not an explanation or suggestion that the Japanese were higher motivated, this explains how important soccer is in the world. There are many other examples such as this and they can be found on the internet with a soccer history search.
  3. Soccer is a game that changes permanently, every second. Yes, everyone has a game plan and is trying to force that plan on the other team. However, during a game that plan can and will change multiple times for all kind of reasons. There is no coach telling you how to play every pass, or a break that gives you time to focus on the next pitch. Everything has to be decided by the player, in full pace, at the moment. If you expect that the U.S. players are the only players that can make “the right decision at any time” keep dreaming. Sounds like life, doesn’t it?
  4. Stop crunching numbers about possession, saves and other nonsense, that doesn’t work in soccer. How about explaining what the teams are trying to accomplish on the field?
  5. If you consider yourself an expert, take a look at the three most recent tournaments. Gold Cup, Women’s World Cup and Copa America.  Did you realize how much problems the “big” soccer nations had? Did you realize how others caught up and are getting better and reach the standards of the big ones? While soccer is the most popular sport in the world, it is still growing and keeps developing. And there is no end in sight. If you believe you can rest on the wins of the past, forget it.

There are 1000’s of other things you need to know about soccer, if you want to call yourself an expert. But let’s just go with the basics above, in order to understand soccer. Let’s get the record straight about this world cup and the result the U.S. women brought home. This team has all reason to be proud of their accomplishments, and so should we. Those that like the game of soccer, you can honor the result they brought home. They delivered some of the most entertaining games and represented the country on a global stage like no other team since quite some time. They created incredible athletes of greatness, especially Abby Wambach must be mentioned. While they gave everything they had in the final, they were GREAT enough to represent themselves and their country in an incredible way, in a moment of defeat. Just that is something we all need to learn for ourselves. You can lose and still step up in greatness and earn the respect of the entire world. And that is what is important in such a moment. This is when you learn and develop, not only in soccer, but in life. If you have any doubt in this, read the international press and get a grip of what these players have delivered and accomplished. We didn’t have such outstanding PR results for a long time.

As far as the question about the league goes, it would be a real shame, if women’s soccer would have to give up the league. It would also be a shame for the corporate world to leave the opportunity of women soccer and the U.S. national team on the table. Not only do you have top athletes, these are also highly intelligent people that have demonstrated their abilities on and off the field and can be utilized for much more than a soccer game. This team has accomplished everything you can dream of as an athlete, without winning the world cup. There is nothing to regret and nothing to talk down, this was a clear win for U.S. Women’s Soccer and the United States.

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