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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

Tempus Fugit

Susan Boyd

Remember when we wrote our first check of the New Year by scribbling out the previous year we inserted by mistake? That was concrete evidence that we had passed over to a new block of time. But we don’t really write checks any more. Debit cards and e-bills make checks obsolete. In fact when someone ahead of me at the cashier brings out the check book, I feel like an archeologist discovering the Rosetta Stone. I’m compelled to point out the anomaly to my grandchildren. Calendars have also become a thing of the past since now we keep reminders on our cell phones – no days or years, just dings that tell us we have a dentist appointment tomorrow and we should pick up the dry cleaning on the way home. We don’t even have to remember birthdays or anniversaries because once we input them to our phones they automatically reappear when needed. Time passes without any context for exactly what time it is.

Time affects so much of what we do. Bills are due on a certain date. Our children must meet birthdate requirements to enter school or to be on a sports team. We can’t get a driving license or register to vote before the legal age. Coupons and food have expiration dates. Stores have operating hours. Stock markets, banks, post offices, and government agencies aren’t open for business on specific holidays. Airlines don’t wait for late passengers. Life is filled with schedules whether for entertainment, travel, school, work, vacation, or transportation. We have little control over these external demands, although digital video recorders do let us watch TV whenever – a small, but significant tool. Otherwise we either march to the drum of imposed time signatures or miss out.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that we don’t see time in a positive light. The exception would be New Year’s when we take a moment to create an optimistic outline of what we want to accomplish the next year. Unfortunately, for most of us, that enthusiasm disintegrates in the face of reality. We buoyantly declare that this year will be the time to lose weight, stop smoking, develop closer family ties, be more productive at work, get our closets organized, go to the gym, and/or meditate. Then the crush of time steals our resolve abbreviating our plans. Instead of proper weight management, we end up at fast food restaurants because family scheduling conflicts require easy meals, we have to leave work undone to get to the school play, we can’t seem to find a block of time to focus on those closets, and who can meditate regularly when we aren’t home except to sleep. We curse our inability to corral time and bounce along on the moving sidewalk of demands.

Time is life’s odometer. It constantly rolls onward bulldozing us while we scramble to get things done. We can’t pause or stop the movement. We may declare that 50 is the new 30, but there’s no mistaking that when we turn 50, we’ve ticked off 50 years no matter how we feel. We aren’t Benjamin Button. We make lists, check off items, and feel as if we are somehow controlling the movement. But actually we are still captive to the current. Our time has boundaries even though time itself has none. So we have to decide how we will use that time. When it comes to children, we find ourselves donating much of our time to enriching their time, which may include their participation in sports. The amount of time devoted to practices, games, tournaments, equipment shopping, and watching the professional games of the sport with our kids can be extensive and may explain why parents get so invested in their children’s participation. After all, we want our limited time to pay off in some way. If parents aren’t achieving during that period, we certainly want our kids to be successful. Rather than considering the time as something shared with our kids, we look upon it as an outlay requiring a tangible return. I used to drive Robbie three hours to practice during rush hour and two hours home. One day we drove down to practice only to discover when we got there that it had been canceled and no one bothered to call us. I burst into tears. When Robbie asked why I was crying, I blubbered out, “This is a piece of my life gone.” He was 15 and I’m sure thought his mother was crazy. Someday he may remember that moment and go “ah ha.” I only valued the drive when it yielded something, while I should have valued it for the time we got to spend together talking and connecting.

We may capture time for a moment or two. We take photos which are each 1/64 of a second in our lives. Or we take videos laying captive to longer segments of the past. We can manipulate those products, but we can’t regain the time. Then there are memories. We create a curious amalgam of truth and revision when we delve into our past. We either purposefully or accidently reshape our memories revealing a history to represents us. It’s not lying, because we don’t do it to deceive. We do it to elucidate our personality – to present a picture that can adequately explain how we came to be who we are now. Nevertheless the bygone time is simply that – gone.  Its remnants remain, but those are only the shells in which the time lived.  Whether we produce picture proof of an event or relate it in a story, we are doing so in a new frame of time that also speeds by. No matter how much time we remember and how much time we take to relive it, that constant drumbeat continues.

Just before Christmas I attended a lecture by Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who has stepped into the popular science shoes of Carl Sagan. His enthusiasm for his discipline and his ability to make it understandable to the general public has made him an important voice for science. He talks often about time because that’s the package in which we all live. Stars died millennia ago, but their death is just discovered due to the huge expanse of the universe. The changes in our world took billions of years – a number we can’t really comprehend. If the life of the world to date would be equated to a day, the time of mammals would be the last 1.5 minutes of that day with most human history in just the last few seconds. He told about a probe that was launched Jan. 19, 2006 to send back information about Pluto and its moons. It will make its closest pass to Pluto on July 14, 2015 and will return just a few minutes of data during that pass. It has been sending information and photos during the entire journey, but the goal is close ups of Pluto that the Hubble telescope couldn’t even capture. So after 9.5 years we will get a few minutes of close-ups before the probe speeds out further into space. This journey certainly puts into perspective that two-hour wait in line for Splash Mountain’s five-minute ride. Think about what your kids were doing in 2006 and what they are doing now to realize how much time it took to reach the outer limits of our solar system. We won’t know how much the time was worth until we get the data back.

That’s the crux of dealing with time – what is it worth? The old chestnut “Time is Money” seems misleading. No one is paid just for his or her time. We are paid for our talents or contributions. These take time to deliver, but everything takes time. The ticking of the clock is merely the universal backdrop to life. Time is not a commodity we can purchase. We can’t bank time to withdraw later to extend a pleasant vacation without missing work or to add some much wished for moments when life is approaching its close. Each of us has a different amount of time to work with, but the pace of that time is equal for everyone. So the worth of any period has to be measured not just quantifiably, but also subjectively. Certainly the time spent negotiating a peace treaty is worth plenty, but so is the time we spend supporting our children at their soccer games. Even time that on the face of it seems wasted can be worth something. Recharging our psychological batteries watching reruns of “Three’s Company” has a value not readily apparent to others, but definitely obvious to some.

For time to have significance it needn’t be attached to some lofty accomplishment. We each attribute our own value to our own time. It’s a new year, but really that’s just an arbitrary tick mark on the range of our lives. Someone long ago created the structure of time measurement and gave it names. But time is fluid. We can look at any moment as an opportunity to make a change, try a new adventure, transform walls into doors, and alter our pathway. I think resolutions serve a purpose because, if nothing else, they encourage us to take stock of our time and what we plan to do with it. But truthfully that’s something we should be doing reflexively every day, maybe even every hour. How will we use this time to make our lives and the lives of others better than they were moments ago? It doesn’t require some idealized super goal like losing weight or building a dream house. It can be simple like deciding to give more hugs, biting our tongues when we want to offer advice after a match, playing a board game, taking a walk with the entire family, picking up trash in your neighborhood, shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk, reading a book for an hour a day, watching the sunset, or building a fire for the evening.  What we do with the time we have may have grandiose moments, even moments that we will be celebrated for, but for most of us our time will be valuable because it will have a value for our friends and our family, as well as for ourselves.  Since technically every second starts a new year, we needn’t have some arbitrary benchmark for change during our journey on the all too fleeting continuum.  We just need new eyes to see possibilities.

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The Myth of Soccer

Susan Boyd

This is the season that we become both reflective and generous.  A crush of holidays make us acutely aware of and attentive to family and friends as well as focusing on the needs of the world. Whether we have religious or altruistic motivations or both, we tend to hope for peace, cleave to family, and generously donate to causes. Because we are at the end of a year, we also contemplate what we failed to accomplish in the preceding year and make new commitments for the coming year.  As TV shows run retrospectives (biggest news stories of the year, deaths, political changes), we can watch an abbreviation of our past experiences. All too often it seems that every news report assaults us with images of violence, unrest, inhumanity, and anger. The juxtaposition of the joy of the season against the gloom of the broadcasts can in its own way deflate our spirit. Nevertheless, we continue to reach out in the atmosphere of peace, forgiveness, and giving to advocate for and help our fellow man.   Perhaps to create a small flicker of light in the dark, dark news, CBS reported a story on the centennial remembrance of the start of WW I. This story involved peace, hope, and soccer.

In a lull during the conflict on a battlefield in Belgium, German and British troops stopped their skirmish in a Christmas truce and met in no man’s land to celebrate the season. As the story goes, at some point a soldier produced a ball and a soccer game erupted with all the exuberance we associate with the sport. This Christmas game has become so iconic that it is still celebrated today with a yearly “rematch” between English and German lads on a muddy pitch in Belgium. A statue and plaque commemorates the moment. While there is ample proof both written and photographic that this truce did occur, there is no proof that it included a soccer game. Yet it is the game that represents the power of a peaceful skirmish.

It’s easy to understand why people cling to what is probably a myth. First of all, it’s heartwarming to think that enemies could use a shared experience to celebrate differences in a way that didn’t bring harm. Second, we recognize the universal language of soccer that can bridge misunderstandings and unite people in a common purpose. Whether you travel to the slums of Rio de Janeiro, the contested lands of the West Bank, the Ebola-stricken towns of West Africa, or the worn-torn areas of Syria you’ll find people playing soccer. You don’t need to know the language, customs, religion, or politics of the group you face – you only need to know the rules of the game which are the same any place on Earth.  Those British and German soldiers may have been able to communicate in one another’s language, but they didn’t need to so long as soccer brought them together to celebrate a season based on peace.

While we can be really intense on the sidelines or the pitch, fighting for wins, we also can leave the field without the need to extract dangerously violent revenge.  Competitors may play dirty, may express racist or anti-religious opinions, and may refuse to engage in basic good sportsmanship, yet it is rare that a soccer match between teams of great opposing political or religious differences ends up in violence.  The match is played, the results recorded, the teams shake hands, and everyone moves on to the next match.  This is a sport that can represent the best way to resolve conflicts where sharp differences exist and where players can exhibit remarkable tolerance even as they struggle to overcome their opponents.  It represents the model we wish the whole world would follow in all aspects of disagreement:  Fight with integrity, without violence, and accept the outcome with grace. 

As we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Arba’een (the largest peaceful pilgrimage in the world) in this month, we are mindful of the overriding themes of love, peace, charity, and hope.  The story of a soccer game in the midst of a battlefield supports those themes.  Whether myth or not, it points out how much we want to believe because the belief, just like Santa Claus or Elf on a Shelf, gives us joy and hope. With that I wish all of you a new year with sorrows which have been soothed by joyfulness, fears which have been drowned in hope, and hardship that has been served by charity.

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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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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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