Inside Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the 90 minutes before bedlam were an anxious and frustrating referendum on
And then it happened. Sunil cried, too. And he woke up this morning to escort Bill Clinton and shake the trees for votes from FIFA’s 24-member Politburo for that 2022 World Cup bid. (Clinton is the bid’s honorary chairman; he got a big cheer when his face appeared on the video board last night.) ESPN was assured another weekend of USA-fired ratings. And given that we’ve landed for the first two knockout rounds in the best group since the Beatles, the possibility for advancing further than any modern US men’s national team is real. Project 2010, anyone?
Personally, last night’s victory was sweet for reasons I’ve articulated here earlier. This could all change starting Saturday, but my momentary glee at England’s second-place failure exceeds rational bounds. Mind if I repeat a line? Suck it, Fiver. Call me thin-skinned, but enough of the “soccerball” condescension. We finished first, you finished second. Nyah nyah nyuh nyah nyah.
This is where soccer fearmongers on the right and worrywarts on the left are wrong. The apparent concern among certain conservatives is that soccer equals socialism and our personal bogeyman, immigration. Lock your doors, suburban U8 players of America! Over at The Nation, meanwhile, Dave Zirin frets that the comments of a couple of unlisten-to-able D.C. sports-talk radio soccer troglodytes reflect a “nasty undercurrent” embedded in all US victories in all international sports. So let me see if I have it straight: The right thinks soccer is un-American and the left thinks the right will use a soccer victory as cause for American triumphalism. Drop ball, people.
Anyone with a dust speck of knowledge of US soccer’s place in the world understands that the euphoria surrounding Donovan’s goal and the prospect for the US in this World Cup have nothing whatsoever to do with reinforcing American cultural might and everything to do with celebrating a long-time-coming (and still-not-there) American ascendancy in the rare place it hasn’t existed. Those chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” aren’t an expression of American superiority. They’re a foam finger in the world’s eyeball from a historically and justifiably overlooked, disrespected, disregarded second-rate soccer country. It’s all about redemption on the field, not politics off of it.