Soccer Fever!

Japan Wins the 2011 World Cup – photo picked up via Google from Thomas Lachetta’s Blog

Talk about a nail-biter! Did you see that game last night? It was amazing! The stadium was packed, the fans were at turns euphoric and devastated, and in the end, it all came down to a few penalty kicks. For the world championship of soccer. Women’s soccer. You missed it? I hardly believe it. I’m pretty sure that no female sport has ever had as much attention as that game did yesterday… or perhaps I’m just biased. It was, after all, a World Cup tournament in this soccer-crazed country and my team was in the final. I even knew people in the stands (who I looked for every time the camera panned the crowd).

It’s a shame that Germany didn’t progress to the final as they had planned, but it lessened their pain when the team who kicked them out ended up winning the tournament. Japan was certainly the underdog going into the game, and despite my nationality I was secretly pulling for them. We can all agree that Japan needs some good news right about now. Their women’s soccer team just won the World Cup – now they have something to celebrate! I heard that all the fan paraphernalia was sold-out over there.

I was here for the 2006 Men’s World Cup and reveled with the rest of Germany in a month-long party, cheering every goal and flying my flag. It was great to see Germans finally bust out some national pride and publicly celebrate their country. They did it again for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and they did it again just now for their Women’s team.

What surprised me even more about this tournament was how popular it was, and how much media attention it received. I have long felt that Germany was a bit behind in gender equality. There is no equivalent of Title IX here (a 1972 law in the US ensuring that girls and boys receive equal public funding for educational programs, including sports), and anti-discrimination laws first took effect in Germany around 2005. And yet, they have a female chancellor and a full stadium for women’s soccer. I am impressed.

And still I ask myself, wouldn’t it be even better if more girls played sports here? My sons have started bambini soccer for preschool and kindergarten kids. Of the 40 little ones out there learning to kick and not touch the ball with their hands, not one is a girl. Not one! I hear that in the US, girls outnumber boys in many of the peewee soccer leagues.

So, parents of girls in Germany, take note. Sports are also for girls, they don’t make them butch or unfeminine (Hope Solo! Alex Morgan!). Sweat is good for you. Sign up your daughters for soccer this year – they might be in the World Cup in 2027 and you could sit in that full stadium and cheer them on.

One thought on “Soccer Fever!

  1. I like the reference to the MEN’S World Cup. A start in itself. One of our (female) teenage babysitters in Germany played football, and I didn’t understand why others reacted with surprise to hear that. Unfortunately for us, as she progressed, we lost her as a babysitter!

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