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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on every Monday. A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom." 
Opinions expressed on the US Youth Soccer Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of US Youth Soccer.


Bits and Pieces Two

Susan Boyd

There’s always interesting stories about soccer that I come across occasionally. I shared a few with you a couple years back. Here’s a new story. When the Slovenia National team came to play against the England National team, they stayed at a hotel approximately 164 feet from the Wembley Stadium entrance. The plan was to walk to the match, however UEFA insisted that the team take a bus to the event so they wouldn’t be late. There’s so much wrong with this ruling. First of all, how does riding a bus ensure timeliness by the team? If they are tardy walking to the stadium less than a soccer field away doesn’t it make sense that they would be late to the bus as well? Then there’s the factor of traffic. A huge bus cannot maneuver around obstructions on the roadway to the stadium which would most likely have started to clog with fan arrivals. I could understand insisting upon a bus if the issue were safety. UEFA might be concerned that the Slovenians would be targets of hooligans, but a line of thirty fit soccer players should be able to comfortably walk to the stadium or jog or run if late. This is an example of overthinking by officials who have abandoned common sense for adherence to rules which might seem reasonable on paper, but in the face of reality are simply ridiculous. There are plenty of examples of unusual, curious and frustrating situations in soccer. These are a few I’ve gathered recently.

At the recent World Cup in Brazil, the participating teams had some peculiar requests on behalf of their players. France insisted on liquid soap in every room rather than bar soap because apparently the French don’t use bar soap and officials were afraid players would have a problem knowing how to use the bars. This attitude belies the theory that soccer players are generally the most intelligent of athletes. Uruguay insisted that all rooms have completely silent air conditioners. I’m guessing they were provided with large buckets of ice to place in their suites. Chile required that all rooms have new TVs and new beds. Perhaps someone had gotten bed bugs during the last World Cup. Japan demanded a Jacuzzi in every room. Ecuador asked for fresh baskets of bananas in every room every day and those bananas had to come from Ecuador. Switzerland had FIFA build a beach studio from which they could broadcast interviews and recaps. This seems an odd request considering that Brazil ranks ninth in the world for the longest coastline. It would seem more reasonable to find an exterior location with a real beach and real waves crashing in the background.

Ian Wright, one of the 90s strongest strikers for Arsenal, Crystal Palace and West Ham is a Star Wars aficionado. So it made sense that when there was an open casting call for stormtroopers in the new trilogy Ian turned out. Sadly he was rejected because, as Princess Leia said in A New Hope, he was “a little short for a stormtrooper.” At 5’ 9” he was a perfect height for a player but fell two inches below the trooper requirement. To rub salt in the wound, two of his friends who accompanied him got parts. Maybe if there was a pick-up soccer game written into the film where off-duty troopers challenge one another they might want Wright on their squad. For now, he’ll have to settle for his weekly live radio show to feed his media dreams.

I’m not sure how I feel about this tidbit. Real Madrid has a genuine star in James Rodriguez who has been a tremendous shot in the arm for the franchise energizing the team both on and off the field since being signed last summer. The young pro became the most expensive Colombian player when Madrid acquired him for an 80 million euro transfer fee which was the fourth highest ever recorded. When he signed, he did so with his wife at his side. Daniela Ospina is the sister of Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, and has been around the game since birth. Rodriguez obviously loves her for her understanding of his profession, her intelligence, her wit and her beauty. Unfortunately following the publication of photos of her at the signing, Madrid fans went on social media to call her ugly among other vile taunts. In response she underwent cosmetic surgery despite her protest that she was sorry she didn’t meet their expectations. “My priority is to meet mine.” I think it’s a sad commentary on our world that public taunting overrode the opinion of the one person she should most trust and respect. I’ve seen many women who would not fit any media ideal of beauty who is absolutely worshipped by her husband and sees herself through his eyes.  We seem to be more willing to accept a dowdy, overweight balding man as the spouse of a vivacious, curvaceous, Helen of Troy woman than the other way around. I’m sorry that Ospina was so affected by the remarks of jealous, uneducated people that she willing took the risk of surgery to try to win their favor. I’m hoping Rodriguez didn’t encourage her to do this but also reinforced with her how special and beautiful she was to him both before and after the surgery.

British frustration with American sports vernacular begins with the term soccer but extends far further. When American sportscasters announce Premier League games there is often a deep schism as commentary regards descriptive phrases.  For example, at Old Trafford they watch a match not a game played on a pitch not a field. For Chelsea fans it’s not uniform, it’s kit, and that kit includes boots (not cleats). The British refer to American football as gridiron which of course in the US is how we designate the field. No player in Britain takes a PK; it’s always a penalty kick. We talk about speed and across the pond they speak of pace. Skill translates to quality of play in the UK.  We tend to use the sports vernacular that we have for other sports in America, so we say shut out (clean sheet), out of bounds (out of play), steal (tackle) and zero-zero (nil-nil).  Upper 90s are top corner in the EPL, and match ups are man markers. In the US the home team is always listed second, while in Britain it’s the visitors.  While we say “on frame” for a clean strike to the goal, Brits get confused because the frame consists of the uprights and cross bar. So on frame would be hitting the bar. Winningest absolutely clinks on the ears of an English fan who uses the grammatically correct “most successful.”  With a red card Wayne Rooney is sent off not ejected. No British footballer would abbreviate locations with terms like “the six,” “the 18,” or “flags” instead of corner markers. Fouls aren’t “on” an offending player but “by” which probably creates the most confusion when English fans listen to American commentary.  However, in America we risk being considered soccer snobs if we use too many of the British terms. After all we’d be totally misunderstood if we offered a brolly against the rain, asked where the lift to the office was located and use the term crisps to mean chips. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t understand my order at the McDonald’s drive-through if I asked for chips with that, although they usually don’t understand my order. Given the number of American sports that share terminology, it’s not surprising we have found our own comfortable, familiar jargon for this international sport.

Let’s end on some quick quips.  A match between Spanish 1st division teams Recreativo Linense and Saladillo de Algeciras resulted in 19 red cards. Recreativo was winning 1-0 when one of their players was sent off with a red card. A brawl ensued so bad it caused the referee to flee the field for the dressing rooms where he ended up sending off nine players on each team resulting in the total of 19, a record I’m sure will stand for many years.  If the match had continued it would have been two against one.  

In the 1930 World Cup game between the US and Argentina, the American trainer ran on to the pitch to argue with the referee. In his anger he threw his medical bag down on the ground breaking a bottle which released the chloroform it held, rendering him unconscious. In 2011 Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli, who is one of the bad boys of the EPL, had an interesting reaction to a young fan asking for his autograph after a weekday training exercise. Balotelli challenged the boy why he wasn’t in school when he should have been, and the boy admitted that he was scared to go because he was bullied. Without hesitation, Balotelli marched the boy to school, informed the headmaster, and mediated the conflict between the lad and his aggressor.  

In 2002 the highest scoring soccer game was “played” resulting in a 149-0 tally. I put played in quotations for a reason. Stade Olympique de L’emyrne felt they had unfairly lost a game due to a questionable foul in the box resulting in a successful penalty kick. So the next match whenever they received the ball they shot on their own goal in protest, racking up 149 goals for their opposition. Fans weren’t very happy and stormed ticket booths to demand their money back.

Finally file this under “out of touch.” Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, was asked in 2004 what might help invigorate women’s soccer. He responded without hesitation that players should wear more feminine clothing including briefer and tighter shorts. I’m surprised he didn’t suggest foregoing jerseys for sports bras only as well.  I’m hoping the ensuing decade has brought Blatter into the 21st century, but his words and actions suggest otherwise. In Greece during a 2008 match between Astreas Tripolis and Panathinaikos, a streaker began a run across the pitch.  Adrian Bastia, a midfielder with Astreas, tripped the man so he could be apprehended and then was rewarded for his actions by being sent off for violent behavior. Such is the odd and occasionally amusing world of soccer. 

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Why you should attend the 2015 US Youth Soccer Workshop

Sam Snow

Here are my thoughts on why you should attend the 2015 US Youth Soccer Workshop and the NSCAA Convention.


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That’s Entertainment

Susan Boyd

My mother grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. Every December, we would be regaled with tales of her winters in the city of lake effect snow storms. I grew up in Seattle, where snow hardly ever falls and when it does the city shuts down. So we heard lots of stories that began, “You think this is bad…” and then morphed into narratives we knew by heart. There was the storm where the winds blew so hard that the snow drifts reached my mother’s second story bedroom window. Then there was the storm that lasted two weeks where the flurries were so blinding that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. We learned about power outages, burst pipes, iced sidewalks, snowball tournaments, and wonderful white Christmases. Whenever we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the scene of Jimmy Stewart running through the town of Bedford Falls came on, mom would gleefully announce, “That’s exactly what it looks like in Buffalo.” Last week Buffalo suffered a century storm that I’m not sure even mom experienced, but the city was so snowbound that the NFL game between the Bills and Jets had to be postponed and moved to Detroit. That’s undoubtedly a winter story we would have heard had it happened while she lived there.

What could all those trapped citizens do when admonished not to travel? No school, no football, no shopping, and certainly no cinema or concerts. For my mother, she would gather around the radio with her siblings and parents to listen to all kinds of great programming. Today, we gather around the 65-inch HD TV for a wide variety of media choices. Likewise, considering that the upcoming holidays mean locating some good gift ideas along with the polar vortex, which threatens to trap some of us in our homes this winter, I thought about soccer movies that could entertain us during the long, cold nights even if we live in San Diego and don’t have to worry about being shut-in by snow. Some of my suggestions have soccer as the central narrative, some use soccer as a backdrop for other messages, and some simply have intriguing soccer moments.

For pre-school and elementary school kids or the kid in all of us, there are several great G-rated choices. “Rio” is an animated film about a macaw who finds himself chasing unrequited love from Minnesota to Brazil in the dead of winter. While Brazil’s equatorial sun is welcomed, it’s also Carnival season and as a rare macaw he piques the interest of exotic bird smugglers and is captured. However, the guards watch a soccer match on TV. Their distraction allows the hero and his amour to escape. Even while chasing their prey through the streets the guards stop to catch a moment of the match on a bar TV. As a nod to the World Cup in Brazil, “Rio 2” has a full-out soccer match between rival teams of macaws in the jungle Pit of Doom. A movie for really young players is Dora’s (the Explorer) Super Soccer Showdown, rated a very gentle G. With the same simple narrative and kind approach to a topic, Dora plays soccer with Boots, visits with her horse Sparky, and joins her friend Benny for the Rain Forest talent show. A wonderful family movie, “The Cup” is rated G, but don’t let that rating make you believe the film is simplistic. Viewers of all ages will love the story of World Cup fever invading the quiet calm of a Buddhist monastery in India. Young monks threaten the centuries old traditions when they clamor to watch the finals and do almost anything to achieve their goal. Based on a true account, the comedy was an official entry in several film festivals.

Players 9 to 12 years old and their families would enjoy several of these PG films, a rating they earn with some pre-teen hijinks and toilet humor. “The Big Green” relates the story of a ragtag group of students who are formed into a soccer team in a small Texas town. In this film, the female adult is the soccer expert, an English exchange teacher who convinces an out-of-shape sheriff to help her coach in hopes of motivating her students to respect themselves and set goals. It’s a fairly typical underdog sports movie, but the kids are engaging and the stereotypes aren’t nearly as overwhelming as in some films. I’m not sure why they made Soccer Dog the Movie and Soccer Dog: European Cup as PG entertainment since the premise is much more appropriate for younger viewers, but the PG parts are fairly tame and the dog is cute, cuddly, and fun to watch. So most kids should be fine with it. For older viewers, there are some PG flicks that speak to their burgeoning interest in the opposite gender and adventure. The great soccer film “Gregory’s Girl” is 32 years old, but still delightful. Gregory loses his spot on his winless soccer team to a GIRL! But he’s also 16 and can’t help but find himself intrigued by his feisty, talented and cute replacement. The film is Scottish, so the language can be a bit daunting to our American ears, but it’s worth the struggle. I never realized that cinema icon Michael Caine did a movie with Sylvester Stallone, but “Victory” benefits from the pairing to be an engaging WWII drama centering on a Nazi propaganda stunt allowing a group of POWs to play the German National team. The POWs plan to use the event as a means to escape. Dozens of plot twists and complications make this an engrossing adventure as well as a stand-out soccer film. Pele’s in the cast and John Huston directs, so it has a good cinematic pedigree. One of my recent favorites isn’t really a soccer movie, but has a wonderful soccer scene near the conclusion. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” from last year with Ben Stiller I consider to be an underappreciated family film. Walter is a dreamer who lives a quiet, uneventful existence and works ironically for Life magazine. Everything is turned upside down when he meets a woman he likes, his mother is being moved to assisted living, Life is closing, and he loses the photo for the final cover. The movie expresses wonderful values, has sharp comedic moments, and that breathtaking soccer scene at sunset on the foothills of the Himalayas.

Moving up the rating scale, these PG-13 movies combine soccer with significant interpersonal challenges. “Bend It Like Beckham” is a classic, both for girls who aspire to play soccer at the college and pro level, and for anyone interested in how cultures adjust and survive when submerged in a dominating foreign culture. Another film that features a girl is “Gracie” based on a true story of a family that loses a son and his sister who wants to take his place on the soccer team. She has to battle not only a system that won’t allow girls on the boys’ team, but also a family stuck in their own grief and hesitation. Although about the struggles of a young woman, Gracie speaks to the level of passion any player requires in order to succeed. “Bella” is the sweet story of a Mexican soccer superstar who ends up making some serious mistakes losing his place in the soccer stratosphere and a young waitress who is fired from her job just as she discovers she is pregnant. The film addresses issues such as who are we when we have to separate from our passion and how do we find a life that includes not only love but kindness. Combining kung-fu with soccer, “Shaolin Soccer” will appeal to any teenage boy who likes fast-paced action, great stunts and some wicked soccer moves. When an ex-soccer player down on his luck crosses paths with a kung-fu master, he is re-energized to play again. He reunites with his brothers, forms a soccer team, and then teaches the players some unusual moves that give them a winning edge. Unrated but appropriate for teens is “Pelada,” whose tag line is “two players, twenty-five countries, one game.” The documentary chronicles the journey of two soccer players and their two friends on a quest to play soccer all over the world. They come across some extremely unusual and occasionally dangerous circumstances, but soccer protects them in the slums of Rio de Janiero and Nairobi, and brings an interesting resolution to the conflicts between Arabs and Jews on the West Bank of Israel. An amazing, inspirational story. Likewise, “Streetball” is unrated. Again, I highly recommend for teen players and their families. This documentary details one competition of the Homeless World Cup held yearly for teams from up to 56 countries. The team members are homeless or disenfranchised players and this movie follows the South African team made up of ex-convicts, drug addicts, and orphans. As the players struggle to become adept at the sport they also learn how to pull themselves out of their circumstances. It’s an inspirational but difficult film to watch.

Two of my favorite movies fit into the soccer category.  Both are rated R and I do suggest they be viewed just by parents and older players, especially my first film, “Babel.” This difficult movie explores not only the human condition but the sharp cultural contrasts that breed fear and prejudice. When an American tourist, Susan Jones, is shot on a tour bus on a remote Moroccan road, the U.S. government immediately declares the event a terrorist attack when in fact it was two boys who had been given a rifle by their father to shoot jackals eating their goats. The manufacturer of the gun is Japanese and has a deaf teenage daughter who is barely clinging to sanity and acts out in sexually provocative ways.  Meanwhile, the Jones’ nanny, a Mexican illegally working in the U.S. faces a dilemma. Since the Joneses are detained in Morocco, Amelia must stay to watch the children, but her son is getting married in Mexico. So she decides to go to the wedding with the children in tow. Unfortunately, on trying to return to the U.S. they are detained and then try to flee through the desert into America. Although Amelia has been in the United States for 16 years, she is deported. The stories are intertwined and shift in time and location. Some stories are unresolved. When Susan is taken to the home of a veterinarian to treat her wound, there are soccer posters on the walls of this isolated location, a symbol I believe of an activity that provides a common thread across nations, cultures, religions and politics. The second film might be okay for younger teens as its R rating is based on language, not violence or sexual situations. It tells the story of Brian Clough, an eager English coach who gets the opportunity to take his rival coach’s spot at the head of Leeds United, at the time England’s top club. However, his ego and his brash style get him in trouble quickly with fans, management and players. His long-time assistant coach and best friend eventually leaves for another job. Clough suffers a dramatic fall from grace before finally discovering his bearings. He has been labeled the greatest coach never to helm the National Team. The movie details how significant the word “team” is in this team sport.  When everyone is working together, success is possible, but conflict leads only to disaster. It’s a good film for older players with aspirations of college and pro careers to witness the flaw of arrogance and the power of partnership.

We may not all need to spend long evenings in a white, freezing wintery shroud, but we can all appreciate an evening of good entertainment. If it happens to include soccer than it gives legitimacy to the passion our kids decided to pursue.  As the popularity of soccer grows in the U.S., we will certainly see more films using the sport to bring out a point of view and tell an absorbing story. There are hundreds of films that focus on soccer. Most, however, are not really quality products just like so many other sports films that don’t really demonstrate the reality of play.  Some of the movies I highlighted are silly and unrealistic, but nonetheless entertaining, so I’ve excused their shortcomings.  All of these films are available on Amazon both to purchase and to stream and others are available on Netflix. I challenge you to make your own discoveries based on your family interests and tastes. Put “soccer” in the search box of any site that streams or sells movies.  Comedy, drama, even musicals have all centered on soccer giving lots of options for viewing long past winter.

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