We’re halfway to the weekend, and that means halfway to the game this weekend. Here’s what’s fueling our conversations this morning.
1. Atlanta’s new mini-pitches: Breaking barriers by reimagining American soccer culture (Dirty South Soccer)
This is an awesome story out of Atlanta about how one organization, Soccer in the Streets, is helping bring the game of soccer to communities all over the city. Payson Schwin reports:
“Soccer in the Streets, a local non-profit that’s been using soccer as a way to support and mentor kids for 30 years, built the first Station Soccer field at Five Points in 2016. It’s been a major success, so much so the City of Atlanta, MARTA, and a whole bunch of other funding partners are getting involved to help Soccer in the Streets greatly expand the program.”
They are placing these soccer fields strategically to make them as convenient and accessible as possible.
“The other hindrance to expanding the game in the City of Atlanta is geographic, with many of the region’s fields accessible via long car rides along traffic-clogged highways. The strategic placement of the 20 fields, all within walking distances of residential communities and MARTA stations, make them easy to get to on foot or transit.”
It’s an interesting read, especially how they’ve custom built Atlanta’s program based on best practices from places like France, Germany, and England. But what has us talking is what strikes us as the pure common sense of the idea. When we talk about growing the sport, more often the context is about increasing TV viewership, being more competitive internationally, etc. But we also miss the obvious option right under our noses – just build more soccer fields!
It isn’t about “perception” or the game’s image. It’s literally helping more people play the game. If that doesn’t grow the game, nothing else matters.
Pitch Perfect: Where do you play your local games? How convenient is it to access local facilities, travel to games, etc?
2. Soccer! Sport’s global outreach is unmatched (LA Times)
We’re always glued to the World Cup, we know just how international and diverse our sport really is. But check out some of these facts from LAT’s Kevin Baxter:
“Major League Soccer started the season with players from 72 countries on its teams. And the first-year Los Angeles Football Club signed 30 players from 19 countries and five continents.”
That incredible diversity results in some pretty amazing effects.
“Most soccer dressing rooms are mini Towers of Babel in which more than a dozen languages are spoken. That’s why Manchester United star Romelu Lukaku speaks seven languages and Belgian teammate Vincent Kompany of Manchester City did post-game interviews in a nearly a half-dozen during the World Cup.”
What really has us going about this piece, though, is what kind of impact this diversity must have on the teams and the game as a whole. Think about it. Every player comes to the team with their own background – they trained with different coaches, developed different strategies, experienced different perspectives. Each individual player on the team brings their own experiences, and together the team has a vast knowledge and experience-base to draw on.
When we look at the high skill and performance of pro teams, we think of it as simply having the best players. And certainly they are phenomenal talents. But they are also combining best practices from hundreds of teams and dozens of countries when they build their programs and devise their strategies.
Going Global: What are some of the unique backgrounds and perspectives on your own team? How have they helped you grow and innovate as a team?
3. German Fans Protest Corporate Greed In Soccer With A Big Banner (Deadspin)
Speaking of how global the game is, here’s a fun one out of Germany. The specifics of the slogans involved are very NSFW, so here’s the summation:
“As a spokesperson for a collection of Bundesliga fan groups explained to ESPN FC, the fans’ grievance stems from their dissatisfaction about the direction of German soccer—specifically with how things seem to be increasingly moving toward a raw profit-maximization focus at the expense of the fans’ interests”
But this isn’t about somehow “selling out” or diluting the purity of the sport. In the case of these soccer fans, the new corporate policies are quite literally making it harder for them to enjoy the game.
“The thinking is that games played on weekdays and at odd hours, at times too early for working people to attend in person and other times too late for kids and working people to stay out, make it harder for local fans to follow their teams. Many of these sorts of changes are made with TV broadcasting, both domestic and international, in mind.”
This one makes us shift in our seats as American fans. We’re so used to our sports being completely molded around broadcasting. Our games have commercial breaks built-in, the events have sponsors’ names in the titles, and even entire seasons are scheduled around not interfering with the broadcasts of other sports. It’s not that anyone chose it, it’s just that most American fans can’t imagine sports any differently.
But we feel for these German fans. What is a team without the local fans? What does viewership matter if the people who support you the most can’t participate?
Fan Service: Do you agree with the German fans? Should games be scheduled around local fans, or is TV viewership more important?
What’s fueling your soccer conversations today? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan and tell us your point of view.