International soccer craze rises in American culture

International soccer craze rises in American culture

It may not be America’s pastime like baseball or the main event of countless fall afternoons like football, but soccer has a following in the northern half of the western hemisphere. You won’t see its players in Porsches or BMWs, but instead in the back seat of mom’s mini-van – it’s the most popular recreational sport for the growing youth of America, according to the United States Youth Soccer Association.

But will it ever be America’s most popular professional sport?

Once referred to as “Fag-Ball,” by Adam Carolla on Comedy Central’s “The Man Show,” soccer has long been an outsider in American sport.

The enormous popularity that follows the game around the globe has never transcended into the American landscape, for reasons that are deeply rooted in American culture, said freshman defender Brendan Ennis of the men’s soccer team.

“With the amount of different sports offered in America, youths can choose from five or seven sports,” Ennis said. “In other countries, soccer is the No. 1 option.”

With a landscape dominated by four sports – football, basketball, baseball and hockey – soccer is the odd man out. No need to look further for proof than Northeastern’s own Ahmed Talaat, an Egyptian-born junior forward on the men’s soccer team.

“In Egypt, soccer is the most popular sport,” Talaat said. “In the U.S. you have more popular sports, in Egypt you have just one: soccer. And so by default, people watch soccer.”

As the most popular sport outside U.S. borders, it seems soccer would bring cultures together. This is the purpose of Northeastern’s International Student Scholars Institute (ISSI), which is hosting its second annual International Soccer Tournament tomorrow night the Cabot Gym from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The tournament is part of ISSI’s International Carnavale, a series of events running through February and March in celebration of the culture and diversity of Northeastern. The event is not limited to international students, but open to to anyone who wants to play soccer, said Nikki Nicosia, International Advancement and Outreach Program Specialist of ISSI.

“Soccer tends to be a global game that the majority of individuals around the world seem to understand and play,” Nicosia said. “We want to make it open, from Uganda to Japan. Soccer has spread out along all cultures.”

While soccer has flourished abroad, it remains stagnant in the U.S. among a population used to the roughness of football, the drama of baseball and the fast pace of basketball and hockey. Compared to these sports, soccer falls short in the U.S.

“I think, as far as the male participation in sports, a lot of America is based on how tough you are,” Ennis said. “That’s sort of the general view that society has, that you’re tougher because you play football.”

It’s a trend that is noticeable to more than just athletes.

During his junior year, senior international business major Brett Figliozzi studied abroad in Ireland, where he was immersed in a culture of soccer.

“The way people look at it is different,” Figliozzi said. “Here they see it as a soft sport, in Europe they try to appreciate the skill that’s involved in the game.”

The U.S.’s tendency to favor violent action in sports can be seen in the way soccer is played in the states.

“The physical component of the game is much more elaborate here,” Talaat said. “In America, they focus much more on the speed and strength of a player; in Europe it is much more skill.”

Arriving in the states for college after growing up in Egypt, Talaat has seen soccer at its most popular points and its lowest.

“I’m sure most people know what soccer is,” Talaat said. “But in comparison, if you tell someone in Europe that you play soccer, they’ve either watched it or have played it.”

However, it seems the tide is turning in U.S. soccer. The signing of British superstar David Beckham by the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer has created a global stir. Does Beckham have the star power to raise soccer’s popularity in the U.s.?

“Yes, definitely,” Talaat said. “Beckham is popular all over the world, and if he goes to any club it makes it more popular.”

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