Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Idiot's Guide to The World Cup

I am totally authorized to write about the World Cup because I owned scooter soccer in elementary school.

What is "scooter soccer," you ask?

As I wrote previously,
The essential rules of soccer were the same, except that instead of standing or running, we sat on little squares of plastic equipped with wheels—the kind that legless homeless people favor or that might be used to transport janitorial buckets. This being public school in the 1980s, the wheels were often warped and twisted, and in order to move at all you had to pound the floor furiously while pushing backwards.
A rare photo of scooter soccer in action. I forgot how much it looks like everyone is pooping on tiny mobile bedpans! Memories!

Hell, yes, I am saying that I dominated at what is essentially Murderball for amputees. Can I get a Milli Vanilli chest bump?

Also, FYI, I did play some soccer without training wheels.

When I was eleven, I joined a local after school team. I asked my parents to let me quit the very first night, but, having already paid for cleats, knee pads, a completely unnecessary sports bra and a non-refundable enrollment fee, they declined. I spent the next eight weeks standing on the field as if my cleats had taken root, refusing to move, waiting for one of the bigger kids to tackle me. I wanted nothing more than to limp home battered and bruised so that my parents—bleeding-heart liberal pacifists—would see the error of their ways and see that they had forced me into a horrifying twilight zone. "We're supposed to run after a ball," I would report. "We're supposed to run even though no one is chasing us and there isn't a bus coming."

So, yeah, I am basically a soccer expert.

And I love the World Cup, because with all that hair and all those abs, it's like watching an episode of Jersey Shore, only with more head-butting. SNAP.

Anyway, now up on the Observer website is my Idiot's Guide to the World Cup. You will learn amazing things. Such as:


Call soccer "football" if you're American.
This is pretentious.

Root for the U.S.
Our great nation does not dominate at soccer. This should be obvious based solely on the fact that the most memorable soccer movies produced by our country were vehicles for Sylvester Stallone (Victory, 1981) and Rodney Dangerfield (Ladybugs, 1992). We'll likely advance beyond the first round, but then teams from South America or Europe will promptly trounce us.

We totally deserve to get our asses kicked just for this.

Try to drop Afrikaans slang.
(A) You're not in Cape Town, and (B) using "now-now" to mean "soon" will just make people think you're Rain Man.

Ask where David Beckham is.
He's injured an Achilles tendon and won't be playing, though he'll likely be mugging (or moping) for the cameras from the sidelines.

Make fun of Kaka.
His real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite; he survived a terrible spine injury (feeling bad yet?); and he was named European Player of the Year in '07. A man should not be measured by his scatological nickname, although one wonders how his parents allowed this to happen.

Compare the World Cup to the World Series.
They are nothing alike. Putting aside the fact that they're completely different sports with completely different rules, 32 countries are represented at the 2010 World Cup; the misleadingly named World Series has two (and that's only if you count Canada-sorry, Blue Jays).


Know your rivalries.
Rooting for Brazil in an Argentine steakhouse is like wearing a Yankees cap at Fenway Park, only more dangerous (knives trump drunken townies in "Green Monstah" T-shirts).

Study the cards.
A yellow card is a caution. A red card expels a player for the remainder of the game. Green Card is a delightful comic romp starring Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell and is not generally used in play (though there's a first time for everything).

If a referee gives you a green card, it means you're a terrible actor.

Brush up on your math.
The 32 teams are initially split, based on rankings, into 8 groups of 4 (basic multiplication, makes sense so far). Each group plays a round-robin tournament so that each team plays each other team in its group once (got it?). Winning a game is 3 points, a tie is 1 point, and a loss is 0 points. The top 2 teams from each group advance to the next round, and so on and so forth, until the competition shrinks from 16 teams to 8 to 4 to 2 to the square root of Pi minus .7725, also known as one, which is the winner.

Embrace South Africa's colorful mascot.
The World Cup mascot, an anthropomorphized leopard with green dreadlocks named Zakumi, makes Mr. Met look like ... well, like an asshole. But Zakumi has one weakness: narcolepsy. According to FIFA's official site, "occasionally ... he may suddenly fall asleep on the spot at the most random times!"

Admire the players' Samson-like manes.
Soccer players are like the Red Sox in 2004, or maybe like Guns N' Roses circa Appetite for Destruction: all hair, all the time. Even if Spain doesn't make it to the finals, they win at follicular excellence this year, with Carles Puyol as MVP.

Root for the Ivory Coast.
O.K., so they probably won't win (if you have money riding on the victor, go with Spain or Brazil), but they could win. Plus, no African team has ever made a World Cup final, and South Africa is hosting this year. And if that doesn't get you misty-eyed (especially after a few beers), your soul is likely the color of tar.


  1. I am one of those "pretentious" Americans refer to the game as football. I then refer to the sport American knows as football as American Football. This is because we are the ONLY country to call it soccer, and generally when I'm talking to people about it, they are from another country, so it just makes more sense to call it football. Then too I pronounce it more like futbol than football. Just saying.

  2. Ha Ha! I love this. I don't make fun of Kaka, but Elano has totally become the butt of jokes in my household. Literally. El ano means "the anus" in Spanish!

  3. I can't tell you how many damn times I ran over my fingers with those little scooters.

  4. I stupidly joined a soccer team when I was about 12. It all ended the day my coach took me aside for some one on one help because I was so bad whilst everyone else ran the regular drills. I accidently kicked him in the nuts. Yep, right in the nuts. I was mortified. Soccer is still dead to me.

  5. Slow claps for knowing that Canada has a baseball team...and that we're a separate country.

  6. Anonymous10:12 AM

    Sorry but not true IAMAWANDERLUSTKING. How pretentious of you to think so!! LMAO. Now Americans claim that too! LOL

    In Australia, New Zealand and much of the pacific we call it soccer as Football over here is either ARL (Rugby Union), NRL - (National Rugby League or AFL (Australian Football League). Now I've confused you all!

    But I agree you have to change the terminology depending on who you are speaking to. If I'm talking to a friend from the UK I refer to it as Football as otherwise they're dumbfounded. Or offended. I'm not really sure.

    The scooter soccer is funny. I've never seen anything like it. And I was also in public school in the 80's. I want to have a go even now. However given the fact that Aussies like contact sports without protective gear, it would have gotten ugly. Maybe they didn't trust us to let us discover it.

    On a side note, many Australians also wonder why the US has the "World Series" baseball when clearly the world does not get invited to compete.

    Forgive me for the little digs. As for the Australian soccer team, it appears we'll be out of the comp any day now. We've been slaughtered.

  7. Anonymous10:17 AM

    I only watched when I was on vacation last weekend (it was on in the bar)... however I found this post both entertaining and helpful. Anything that keeps people from thinking I'm Rain Man is always a plus. Thanks!

  8. In Canada, we also call it soccer. When I lived in South Korea, the South Koreans called it soccer.

    Referring to the sport as football in a country that doesn't recognize it as football isn't only pretentious, it makes you look like an idiot.

    It would be like me telling a friend that I went camping and came back with a bunch of mogee bites. My friend would scratch his head until I told him that mogee is the Korean word for mosquito. My friend would then smack me upside the head!

  9. I bought "scooter soccer" scooters for the kids in my gym program at a charter school I worked at for a year. I totally forgot about them till now,and I forgot them in the equipment locker at the time I bought them because who knows how to play soccer anyhow?

  10. Man, I sucked at scooter soccer, which is kind of ironic because I was really good at real soccer. I think my legs were too long or something because I kept falling off the back of the scooter. Either that or I'm just a total klutz. Yeah, that's probably it.

  11. I hated scooter soccer. I always managed to run over my hands :-(

  12. No way. My husband told me Beckham wasn't playing because he "is old and not good enough to play professionally anymore." Was this a bold faced, taking advantage of my ignorance and using it to appear sports savvy himself, lie?

  13. Anonymous3:28 PM

    1. disagree! i will root for USA as long as they're in it.. [GO LANDON DONOVAN! YAY!!!] then i will move onto whichever spanish-speaking country i so choose. and then brazil.

    2. disagree! ivory coast is so horrible! i don't mean in the sense of how they play, but their attitudes. they 'get cramps' or need to spray their knees or take dives just to keep the other team waiting for them to set up for the next play. BOO!

    3. lastly, baseball is a horribly boring sport. we probably tried to let the rest of the world in on it and no one was dumb enough to waste their time. except japan really loves it for whatever reason.. suckers!

  14. I once got a wicked run in my stockings during a vicious game of scooter soccer right before we were meant to take our fourth grade class picture. Why Mrs. Stanfield decided that Picture Day should also be Scooter Soccer Day instead of Sit Quietly in the Corner Day, I couldn't tell you, but I sacrificed my dignity for the game point, and it was totally worth it.

    And I can't help it - I'm rooting for the U.S. I know we won't win, but that almost makes us scrappy underdogs, and there's nothing I like more than a scrappy underdog. (And I like being able to cheer for my country in a non-destructive way.)

  15. Being Irish, I am obsessed with soccer when it comes to the World Cup. But only then. The rest of the time, I could care less. Unless there is some breaking news about a hot guy, then I'll pay attention again. I know, I'm shameful. My friend back home disgustedly tells everyone we come into contact with during World Cup season that I am a "fake fan, not a real fan". Haha.

    Also, those scooters remind me of being little. We used to go to a play area near my house where they had that exact same game! And kids would be lining up for ages to take a turn, because it was the most fun ride at the play area. Which really says a lot. :p

  16. i was lying on my stomach, scooting on one of those scooters, when it magically tipped forward, and brought me, front-teeth-down, to the cement floor. guess who has fake front teeth now? yep. it's me. (hey, at least i wasn't trying to play soccer in that position, right?)

    ANYWAY. i've been a total slacker on the soccer-watching front, and missed the fact that beckham was out with an injury. i guess this means need to get on my tv-watching, asap? ...or it could mean i just need to stop watching the recaps-only section of the news. i am a horrible fan. :)

  17. It's a well-documented fact that Mr. Met always looks like an asshole.

  18. Metropolis Girl, I stand corrected. I did assume we were the only ones. Big surprise that I am wrong.

    I think the world should just decide one representative per country and have a huge WWE style cage match, or a crazy MMA tournament a la Bloodsport to decide once and for all the names of things, as it can apparently be all too confusing. I think I mostly just hate calling American football, football because well, it doesn't involve a foot meeting the ball very often.

    I'm also terrible misguided on the sport of rugby as well, and the names that it can be known by. I enjoy learning though, even when it means I'm wrong :)

  19. I blame at least two broken fingers on scooter soccer. We also had to play crab football -- using a medicine ball while only being able to move around doing the crabwalk! What was wrong with PE teachers? Sadists.

  20. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Iamawanderlustking. Your last post has cracked me up! LOL The cage fight idea is funny.

    My favourite game of football is Rugby League here in Australia and although it does involve kicking the ball, it is more like WWE at times. And we don't wear protective gear either. Maybe that is why it is so popular here. You know it has been a tough game when players come off the field with bandages around their head. Players are literally like the walking wounded after the game. Maybe we are simply crazy.

    I sort of wish soccer was more physical and exciting in that regard. When some players take a "dive" to score a penalty after being tapped lightly on the foot, I get annoyed. Watching them roll around 10 times is almost like watching an Elizabethan play. Maybe I'll never get it.

  21. Is it just me or do the cards they give out look like ones from the game of Uno?

  22. Respect due! You've totally nailed football... except for calling it soccer.... I promise you won't sound pretentious calling it football, even though you are from the US.

    I don't know how big football is in the US, but here in Europe it is MASSIVE. People drape their homes and cars with the flags of their countries. It's like a carnival.

    Anyway, thanks for your insight into an American view of the world cup.... tres interesting as always!!

  23. As a total PE failure in elementary, scooter soccer was the one activity I excelled at. Since then, I have not met a single person who knows what it is...they were obviously deprived in their primary schooling. I was very excited to see it make an appearance on your blog!


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