Anyone asked you recently why you love this game?
It’s a fair question, especially if the inquisitor truly wants to know your answer.
And what about our answer?
Words seldom do justice when describing art, and this game–soccer, football, futbol or whatever–is an art form. It’s much easier to point at art and say, “See, this is why.”
The tricky part is setting-up that shared experience, that moment of opportunity to point and have the inquisitor respond, either audibly or not, “Aha. I see.”
Wednesday’s Champions League final would’ve worked, especially if your case is built around the premise “It’s a Game of Inches” or “Anything Can Happen.”
If you find yourself simply overcome by the passion of the game’s community, you might have convinced someone before a ball was kicked at the Mexico-China friendly. The adoration displayed by the Mexico fans during the march-in and anthem made your skin tingle and perhaps your eyes well-up.
This brings us to the next and perhaps this year’s best chance of sharing a live, in-person “Aha” moment, the night of May 31 at Qwest Field. It’s Brazil-Canada.
It was a Brazilian–Didi or Pelé, take your pick–who coined the phrase, “The Beautiful Game, and the best available Brazilians of this generation are coming to share that beauty in Seattle.
For all those people who smile when they witness a team of 11 men thinking as one, when a weighted ball drops into space for an onrushing attacker and when the whole spontaneous show resembles something carefully choreographed and set to a samba beat–this promises to be an evening of many, many “Aha” moments.
Beauty is a 60-yard ball controlled by the caress of the receiver’s instep. Beauty is, yes, an overhead bicycle kick, but it’s also the close control which enables an Adriano or Robinho to round the keeper and walk the ball into the net. And it is the dipping, swerving free kick which resembles a ball on a string, then stretching the goal net.
It matters not whether you opt for the suites or the (relatively) cheap seats. If anyone has ever asked, or if you have ever fumbled or forgotten why, exactly, you love this game–this is the chance to simply stand and point. Beauty is at hand.
Mission to Moscow
If you’re not already jealous of Matt Johnson, you soon will be.
Johnson, the executive producer for Seattle Seahawks broadcasts, is living a soccer fan’s dream these days. In a span of eight days, he was an eyewitness to three huge cup finals: UEFA Cup, FA Cup and Champions League.
“The atmosphere in Manchester and the stadium was AMAZING,” Johnson writes via email about the May 14 meeting of Zenit-Rangers. “I understand the only thing that made the news was the small brush-ups involving Rangers fans (but) truth be told, with 150,000 fans coming down (from Scotland) without tickets, they were pretty well behaved. I met a few and they were a great group of people.”
Johnson’s highest marks for his Wembley excursion were saved for the efficiency of the train system delivering many of the 90,000 fans to the stadium. The match between Portsmouth and Cardiff was judged “sloppy and boring” at times. Not so, in Moscow.
The Russian capital was abuzz before the game and inside Luzhniki Stadium, “the atmosphere was really, really cool,” writes Johnson. “It was what I expected–and more–for a European final.”
“The ebb and flow of the game was fascinating. The stadium was filled with singing and chanting English fans,” he adds. “I was sitting in the 12th row of the Manchester fans, so I was in the middle of the folks who did not stop once.”
Security was tight and rival fans largely were kept apart between the stadium and train station. After the ruckus a week earlier in Manchester, a combination of different Russian police agencies formed columns on either side of the street, stretching from the stadium to the train station. All this at 2:30 in the morning, when the United fans were allowed to depart.
As for how he managed to obtain the toughest ticket in Europe, Johnson blew a hole in the theory that you need to have connections. While in Manchester, he simply went to the Old Trafford ticket office and bought for face value.
Altogether, the experience was priceless. “The event itself will be remembered as a highlight for the rest of my life.”
It’s All Over
Much of the heavy lifting is now completed in Europe. Most of the top domestic leagues have finished, most with familiar names at the top.
Other than Germany’s Bundesliga, precious few trophies changed hands. Lyon won an unprecedented seventh consecutive championship and goes for the double Saturday, facing Paris St. Germain for the French Cup.
PSV Eindhoven won its fourth straight in Holland while Celtic (Scotland), Inter (Italy) and Porto (Portugal) each made it three in a row. Real Madrid and Man United repeated, with the Red Devils, like Inter and Celtic, not clinching their feat until the final day.
Next up, the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland, beginning June 7.
Turn On, Tune In
The first of four consecutive road games for the Seattle Sounders comes Friday night (8 p.m.) when they visit Vancouver for the weekly USL Game of the Week on Fox Soccer Channel.
In Major League Soccer on Saturday, East-leading Columbus hosts New England (4:30, FSC) and two of the top contenders in the West, Kansas City and L.A., face-off (7:30, HDNet).
Apart from Saturday’s Scottish (7 a.m.) and French (12 noon) and cup finals, which will likely require a trip to the pub, the Memorial Day weekend is relatively clear of action. However, the international flavor of the next month begins with Wednesday’s match between the U.S. and England from Wembley (12 noon, ESPN Classic.).
Still good seats available for Brazil-Canada, both at Ticketmaster (206-628-0888) and the Qwest Field box office (Monday-Friday, 10-5; Saturday 10-2)…State high school championships for boys are being contested this weekend in Lakewood (3A/ 4A) and Sumner (1A/2A). Semifinals begin Friday afternoon and championship games are Saturday…Going into Friday’s trip north of the border, the Sounders are unbeaten (2-0-2) in their last four. The Sounders women (1-0-0) host the L.A. Legends at Starfire on Sunday at 6…In the past you voted for the Sounders FC nickname. In the future, it’s the fate of the general manager. Right now you can feed your habit by voting for the MLS All-Stars at MLSnet.com. In fact, you can vote up to 10 times per day for the players who will face West Ham United on July 2 in Toronto. The online fan balloting will comprise 25 percent of the total vote, with coaches and general managers, players and media accounting for the balance…South America’s version of the Champions League, the Copa Libertadores, is down to the semifinal stage. Rio’s Fluminense will face six-time champion Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires and Mexico's America meets Quito of Ecuador, both beginning with first legs