Thursday, June 24, 2010

USA’s success at the World Cup is good for the game.

     When Landon Donovan scored the winning goal against Algeria during extra time, the entire fan base of the US National soccer team jumped for joy everywhere. In pubs and homes throughout America, fans of the game and the USA were proud of the achievement of a team that never gave up, even though a couple of bad calls would have prevented them from advancing to the next round. The world cup is a tournament that brings people together every four years and traditionally it has been the best way to measure which country is crowned the best soccer team globally. There have been teams in the past that have made this prestigious tourney but have failed to do so recently. My point is if hard work, dedication and an unconditional support system is provided to national teams we don’t know who will be in the world cup come every four years. Let’s take some examples from this world cup. Despite a big loss to Germany, Australia not known for its soccer has proved it belongs in the world cup and it performed better than most expect it by defeating Serbia a team that beat Germany. 
     How about the likes of New Zealand with most of it’s players not even playing at top notch soccer leagues like the Italian Seria A, they managed to tie the Azure shocking the world. Meanwhile all 5 teams from South America have shown that they are in top form and should advance to the round of 16. With Brazil and Argentina leading the way Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile have all been nothing short of spectacular. Mexico and Honduras are not too shabby neither. However, The story of this world cup has got to be the USA, a nation that prides itself as more of a baseball, basketball and American Football center. As a roving Television reporter for the US national team in the 90’s, I had the opportunity to travel and cover the US Team. I had just moved to the nation’s capital from the South where I played my collegiate soccer and worked as a TV producer covering sports. Things were very frustrating as many seemed not to care about the game especially in the south where most colleges had excellent programs. I have always been a fan of the game at the college level because the NCAA and NJCAA all provided opportunities for those who worked hard to make it to the next level. I am a strong advocate of young people getting a college education while also performing in athletics especially soccer.
It makes you a better person and it can also provide an opportunity for any individual be it male or a female to shine in the international athletic stage.

      Around the 1994 world cup that was held in the USA I was so pleased to see that the game would be taken very seriously in this country and that the growth of the game would soon start to bear some fruit. Being a part of the growth as a high school and college player in my adopted home and then as an advocate of the sports has given me many opportunities and it has also done the same for most of these players on the US national team. So I say take it serious and make the best of it.
      Young and upcoming stars like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore who started to develop at the end of the careers for those before them like Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda, Tony Meola, Earnie Stewart, Tony Sanneh, Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, Demarcus Beasaly and the many more I have failed to mention have now taken over the national team. The days when many people taught that the US is no longer a world soccer power are gone thanks to the hard work of immigrant Americans working in tandem with those whose families came here a long time ago.  It is the great mix of players from different backgrounds that make this national team a strong contender and for making it to the sweet 16, the US should be proud.  
      I would also like to say that the Team the US is playing against represents the continent of my origins Africa where the world cup has been held for the first time. While most African teams have been a disappointment, Ghana has proven it is a world-class team with so much talent. Even the Black Stars success did not come overnight. It was years of work and national development that has produced some of the world’s best players like Abedi Pele, and Michael Essien and many more who have left their marks in the African Nations Cup. Both the USA and Ghana have worked on their development of the game at the grass roots level and they both should be commended. Ghana is known as one of the world’s best under 21 teams which indicate that they invest in the future. Like the USA does with many youth associations throughout the country. Most of the players you see on the US team today are byproducts of these youth leagues. Good luck to both Ghana and the USA and may the best team win. Mean while I leave you with one of my stories from 1994 while promoting the game and the US national team. Click on the link below

For Eri-International Sports

Mike Seium