“No, It’s Not Sissy Ball” – In Defense of Soccer

By Sabrina Völz

Credit: Steven Depolo

As most of you have probably noticed, the United States is not among the countries playing in the World Cup for the first time in 32 years. There is certainly a plethora of explanations – or excuses – circulating that revolve around the question why (men’s) soccer isn’t as popular as other sports in the U.S. Watch a few of the YouTube videos on the subject with your class and have learners collect the arguments and excuses. A number of them are just plain silly, so divide the students in groups and have them see who can give with the best or wittiest counter arguments. Here’s my list:

⦁ The game is low scoring and slow. (Hey people, baseball doesn’t get into double digits too often either.)

⦁ Soccer otherwise known as “sissy ball” is a sport for girls. (It’s a sport for girls and women, stupid. Women and girls play basketball, too, and that hasn’t stopped anyone from picking up that orange ball and shooting some hoops. Besides soccer is a brutal sport, just ask Scott Sterling…)


⦁ America, as a competitive nation, doesn’t like tie games. Not only is a tie not fathomable, it is impossible in the big four American sports: football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. (True, but maybe it’s time to take a chill pill and embrace the gray area. Dividing everyone continually in “winners” and “losers” does not foster sportspersonlike conduct in a country plagued by culture wars.)

⦁ There are too few American-grown soccer role models, so the sport doesn’t attract the young. (Show some American optimism, will you? Have you forgotten the old American adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?” And if that doesn’t work, advertise more. Take this advertisement for the ESPN 2014 FIFA World Cup Commercial. Soccer is cool.)


⦁ Americans already have four national sports and no real soccer tradition. (Okay, you got me on this one. But in a country of 325 million people, are you really sure that there is not enough room for one more national sport? And besides, if we didn’t turn so many Mexicans back at the border, we would have a splendid team. Sorry, Germany.)

When finished with that exercise, explore the meaning of sports metaphors. English is full of them. And finally ask your students to explain the spirit of soccer in “Live it Up” and do a close reading of some screen shots. (You have to be pretty creative to explain why there are horses in that video.)


And now enjoy the game and watch the rest of the World Cup!


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