John F. Russell: Universal love of soccer | SteamboatToday.com
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John F. Russell: Universal love of soccer

For a few hours this weekend, Emerald Park became the center of the soccer-playing universe.

Forget today’s World Cup final between Italy and France. The real action took place at Emerald Park, where the Steamboat Youth Soccer Association held its annual end-of-season soccer tournament, or as they prefer to call it, the end-of-season soccer “showcase.”

I realize not everyone will agree that these games were bigger than the World Cup finale, but for the parents of children playing in the local event, the youth showcase was far more important.



The showcase is a soccer marathon filled with heart-stopping moments, game-saving plays and everything that makes soccer a great sport in our country.

For the young players, the showcase is a place to learn about soccer, a place to learn how to compete and a place to learn how to be a good sport, win or lose.



For parents, the showcase is a place to learn how to be a good fan and how to cheer for your children without embarrassing them. It’s also a chance to experience soccer — “the beautiful game” — firsthand.

Although soccer may be the most popular sport in the world, it struggles in the U.S. in the shadows of American favorites such as football, baseball and basketball. And while there’s little doubt interest in soccer is growing, many Americans don’t really understand the game.

My hope is that future generations will change how our country views soccer. Maybe by the time my son is my age, he will not only understand the game but also pass it on to his children the same way my father passed his love of football, baseball and basketball to me.

I’m not sure our country will ever have the same passion for the game found in Europe, but maybe we will understand soccer well enough to share a small portion of the world’s passion for it.

I experienced that passion firsthand last winter when I traveled to Italy to cover the Winter Olympics. I don’t speak a word of Italian, but that didn’t stop me from gaining an understanding of that country’s love of the game.

In a nation completely absorbed by the Olympic Games, soccer still demanded headlines in newspapers and the attention of local TV stations.

I think it’s safe to say that the rest of the world will never view Emerald Park as the center of the soccer-playing universe. But, at least this weekend, it was a place for American children to gain an appreciation for the game of soccer — and maybe the same passion the rest of the world has long since discovered.


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