8 Rules of World Cup 'Fight Club'

Living in the States, I’ve experienced six World Cups here. And each of them has been a battle.

In each instance, there have been soccer naysayers who dismiss the relevance of the tournament. They make cheap jokes about the sport. They rely on the past and still think that hooliganism is rife. It’s a constant battle between the non-believers and soccer fans like us. In the minds of the non-believers, we’re pesky bugs who come out of the woodwork every four years to try to convert the masses to adopt our sport. We’re seen as the enemy who have been corrupted by foreigners. It’s a sport that mainstream America doesn’t understand and can’t relate to.

Matters are made worse by the mainstream press who, every four years, write idiotic columns from their lofty perches counting the reasons why they hate soccer. Thankfully, as society advances every four years, these dinosaurs who despise soccer become fewer as they retire or go to the writer’s graveyard in the sky. But they still exist despite the fact that they’re hardly as relevant as they once were when newspapers ruled the roost.

So, soccer fans, it’s time to join together, arm yourselves and be prepared to fight the good fight. Here are the 8 rules of the World Cup “Fight Club”:

  1. The first rule of the World Cup ‘Fight Club’ is that you do not talk about World Cup ‘Fight Club’
  2. The second rule of World Cup ‘Fight Club’ is that you DO NOT talk about World Cup ‘Fight Club’
  3. Third rule of World Cup ‘Fight Club’: Someone criticizes soccer or says something inaccurate, you call them on it and explain to them why they’re wrong — no matter who it is
  4. Fourth rule: Wear your heart on your sleeve and let everyone know you’re a soccer fan. Wear soccer shirts on casual Friday. Add a World Cup wall chart or bracket to your office cube or door. Make sure everyone you come into contact with understands that the World Cup is coming whether they like it or not. And during the World Cup, talk it up at work. Ask people what they thought of those games from yesterday. Force the issue and make them feel like they’re missing out on the best thing ever.
  5. Fifth rule: Make sure total strangers know you’re a soccer fan by putting a World Cup bumper sticker on your car or attaching a flag. Show strangers that soccer fans can be passionate too.
  6. Sixth rule: Adopt someone. Make it your goal to introduce one friend, work colleague or family member to soccer this summer. Don’t force them. But help them give the tournament a chance and then let the World Cup work its magic as it’ll hopefully blow them away.
  7. Seventh rule: Contact your local media. Call or write your local newspaper or television station. Ask them why they aren’t covering the biggest sports tournament in the world. And if they are covering it, call or write them and thank them for the coverage. One voice speaks for thousands, so the more you’re proactive and make your voice heard, the better the chances are that there’ll be more and better coverage.
  8. The eighth and final rule. Arm yourself with facts. Be prepared to counter inaccuracies by naysayers and folks in the media with facts. How many people in your country play soccer? How many people watched the last World Cup? How do the number of viewers for the Super Bowl compare to the World Cup Final? And so on. If you haven’t done so yet, pick up a copy of Soccernomics for tons of valuable statistics.

As a soccer fan living in the United States, I’m sick of being on the defensive when it comes to my favorite sport. This World Cup I plan on being on the offensive to see if it works out for the better. Yes, some of you may argue that we no longer have to care about mainstream America because the soccer underground is booming on the blogs, podcasts and specialty soccer channels. But sooner or later, soccer has to make the giant leap into the mainstream and there’s no better time than now.

26 thoughts on “8 Rules of World Cup 'Fight Club'”

  1. Ah, OK. It has changed a lot in the last 20 years, partly due to the connectivity of the world and partly due to the immigration the country has experienced. There are less soccer haters (although still plenty who just aren’t interested), but there are still some.

    1. Am always happy when i hear the word “THE BLUES” it drives me crazy because i so much love Chelsea. so join me to say “UP CHELSEA”

  2. Soccer will definitely leap into the public’s consciousness if Obama heads to Africa to watch the USA in the quarterfinals.

  3. And go support your local bars and pubs that are committed to showing every match. The global game would have died out in the states without soccer pubs and eccentric bar owners who were into the sport and would only countenance having soccer played on their televisions. You might no longer require the soccer pub to see matches but you’ll have more fun sharing pints. You’ll probably learn/teach more there too.

  4. I often find attack is the best form of defence: …”so this ‘World’ Series then… how many countries are involved again?” 😉

    1. wozza- i had asked that during last years world series, i also ask why usa hasn’t even received bronze in the world baseball classic? And point out baseball is no longer an Olympic sport. But I do this out of my HATRED of baseball, so any time i can have a go at it i do.

      1. That’s easy. The Baseball finals were sponsored by a magazine called the “World’s Sport”. They sponsored the trophy, and the name stuck even when the magazine folded.


        1. Interesting. I’d heard that too, but as far as I can make out the “World’s Sport” theory is apocryphal. They were apparently referred to as “world championships” pretty much as far back as the game goes (you can see an explanation here http://roadsidephotos.sabr.org/baseball/name.htm).

          It was all about hoping that the game would become bigger than it actually has. You learn something new (about a boring sport) every day! And don’t get me started on those big gloves…

          1. Well I’m not a massive fan of Baseball, but I can cope with it. Now don’t get me started on rugby or cricket. 😉

      2. You can’t compare the World Cup to the WBC. International play (by professionals) in soccer has nearly a century of precedent. Baseball only has the last two WBCs. Because of this lack of history, professional baseball teams are much more capable at keeping their players out of such tournaments. But in soccer, international play is ingrained and it’s close to impossible for professional clubs to keep their players from competing internationally.

  5. Since moving to the States after growing up in Manchester, I have stopped trying to convert non-football fans into supporters. It’s tiring and not worth the time in my opinion. If you don’t get the sport then that’s you’re fault not mine. For the most part, you can’t change the way people think and if they don’t want to recognize the world’s greatest sport, you’re just going to waste your breath. It might sound a bit smug but we are better for being football supporters.

    1. “It might sound a bit smug but we are better for being football supporters.”

      Give me a break. Just because you are a soccer fan doesn’t mean that you’re somehow better than people who aren’t. Not only do you sound smug, but you can add self-important and self-indulgent. Do the world a favor and grow up.

  6. i agree with the above poster. Sorry my friends, but I am a non-proselytizing football fan. It just isn’t worth the efforts. I’ve given many a “Come to Jesus” speeches but I’ve never managed to convince a single soul to watch a game with me. In fact, I believe my passive attempts to spread the game may have worked better than any active attempt could have. A few weeks ago, I asked them to turn one of the weekday matches at my favorite local watering hole. Even though they would normally never dream of showing soccer in this working class bar in rural Ohio, they turned it on. I heard one 50 year old gentleman say, “Look at that, I’ve never even seen them score before” when somebody scored just after the barmaid turned the game on. That is the closest I’ve ever come to bringing someone over to the dark side…

  7. “Seventh rule: Contact your local media. Call or write your local newspaper or television station. Ask them why they aren’t covering the biggest sports tournament in the world. And if they are covering it, call or write them and thank them for the coverage. One voice speaks for thousands, so the more you’re proactive and make your voice heard, the better the chances are that there’ll be more and better coverage.”

    Are you kidding? Seems like a ridiculous waste of time to me.

    I only became a big soccer fan recently. In the short time I’ve followed the game closely, I’ve noticed something. There is a segment of American soccer fans that constantly whine about soccer’s status in the US. They take any slight through the game as a moral outrage. They act like they are an aggrieved minority persecuted by an evil government. It’s ridiculous, and serves no purpose. All it will do is give more ammunition to people who don’t like the game at all. It’s not that important.

    1. Whining to the local media is pretty worthless, too. The media covers things that make it money…if covering soccer would bring tons of cash to local tv, radio and newspapers, they would cover it. Seriously, what is the local tv station supposed to do other than the 30 second highlight and score clip they’ll show on the 11:30 news? Do we really expect them to send a reporter to SA to cover it live or have special updates? That’s not worth their time or money to do.

      1. Bobby, I disagree. Any ABC affiliate in the States should be interested in the World Cup. Ten of the games, including the World Cup Final, will be televised live on ABC. Plus the remaining 54 games will be televised on ESPN, which is owned by Disney – which owns ABC. If local ABC affiliates are smart, they’ll do everything they can do to promote the tournament at their local level to help make it a success for the Disney corporation.

        As far as covering the news, I’m not expecting them to send a reporter to South Africa. But they could visit the local sports bars and restaurants to capture the sights and sounds of the passionate soccer fans cheering on their country.

        The Gaffer

    2. We take soccer’s (and soccer fans) status as a second class sport to heart here in America. I don’t know how many friends you have who hate soccer, but just about all of my friends do, and bash me whenever I make parallels to other sports. I try to figure out why they legitimately do not give soccer a chance, so I look at ESPN’s coverage of it (particularly Sportscenter).

      Up until the last 6-12 months, Sportscenter rarely showed soccer highlights, and when they did, it was without context, and usually with 4 or 5 mispronounciations per 15 second clip. It is offensive to me to show a sport in such a half-assed manner, only to promote the next year because it’s the World Cup and you’re showing it.

      Also, shows like PTI and Around the Horn only talk about soccer when something scandalous or outrageous happens (never in the MLS though, they NEVER talk about the MLS), and all of the sportswriters on there know absolutely nothing about soccer. They preface their comments by saying “I don’t know what I’m talking about, but….”, which makes the sport seem even less legitimate to the average viewer. Not to mention the fact that Jim Rome is on the channel, a guy who hates soccer literally because it’s “as American as apple pie to hate soccer”

      So yeah, we do feel like were persecuted to a small extent, because the biggest sports coverage provider treats it like a red-headed step child until it’s fashionable not to, which in my opinion helps reinforce the idea that’s so popular in America that soccer is lame, boring, and pointless.

  8. I think trying to convert people to soccer is a waste of time too. My favorite sports are hockey and soccer so I am used to liking unpopular sports in the U.S. I’m all for watching a game with someone who has never seen one or introducing a video game playing friend to a soccer game on the ps3 but as for lobbying for more coverage or wearing jerseys around town, I think it is pointless as the mainstream media don’t care about soccer in general. I even worked in a TV station and was mostly unsuccessful at getting sports people to show hockey highlights because they didn’t understand it and didn’t want to learn either. The World Cup actually receives a fair bit of press in North America anyway, much better than hockey and far better than the MLS, which is ignored in most media in the U.S.

  9. All the soccer fans in the US who are trying to convert the masses into supporters would hate it if the sport actually came on big.

    Admit it, all you people love the fact that you are a small group of people who follow the sport. You don’t want the rest of the country to get into it.

    1. I do love that it is a niche sport, although I do wish more people followed it. I went into a coffee shop tonight for a men’s group meeting wearing my German jersey and a guy in line commented to me about Ballack missing the World Cup. He didn’t know much about it, but he knew enough to connect Ballack to the jersey I was wearing and make a simple comment. Baby steps…

  10. I’m not trying to start any long discussion on when and where soccer will finally be a part of the American mainstream (it will! Read Soccernomics! It’s true!).

    I will say ESPN has been promoting the World Cup out the yazoo in the past month. Their coverage should be great, as it was in 06. I’m assuming it will be even better four years on. ESPN 3 will also be replying all the matches, so I can watch any I missed, too!

    And maybe it is just because it’s a World Cup year, but I’ve noticed a little more coverage of worldwide soccer on SportsCenter, too. Usually it’s just Champions League stuff, or a crazy goal from MLS, but I even saw my beloved Nottingham Forest in the Top Ten! Of course, it was in their playoff loss to Blackpools, but still, Sportscenter covering the Championship? Awesome!

  11. I disagree with those who don’t care whether the media covers the Cup or not. I was the sports editor at a small paper in Illinois during the ’06 Cup and I ran it as my lead story every day. I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the number of people who seemed to be interested, whether they became fans or not. In addition, at my local pub, I insisted every day that they put the game on, no matter who was playing. For the Italy-France final, we ended up having about 15 people who had never cared about soccer in their lives showing up to see the game — because they had watched a number of games with me and as a result cared who won! I don’t know that I convinced them that soccer was the greatest game, but they cared more than they did before.

  12. One thing we all can do is to combat the idiocy we encounter in comment threads around the web. The bashers may be dwindling in number (and I’m convinced they are), but they’ll be out in force as World Cup stories pop up on newspaper sites, sports blogs, places like Yahoo News, etc.

    Shaming and marginalization are the best tactics in these cases. Make these people feel isolated and passe. Don’t “fight” them or get defensive –laugh at them or quickly mock them and move on. Act puzzled that they’re bashing soccer, as if you don’t encounter that very often anymore. Find ways to let them know they’re behind the times — that they’re still stuck in 1985, that they’re dinosaurs, that “only old people bash soccer,” etc.

    DON’T bother with stuff like “the rest of the world disagrees with you,” or “gridiron players wear padding and they touch each others’ butts,” or other inane crap. That stuff doesn’t have any effect. What has an effect is when human beings feel like they’re backwards and alone, like they’re marginalized. That’s when they begin questioning themselves, and that’s when you take the sting and energy out of their fight.

  13. I understand where you are coming from, but I think you would be better severed by picking up a copy of “how to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. After all you’ll catch more flies with a drop of honey then a gallon of oil.

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