Spain has little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for US Soccer

photo by Association Football

photo by us


Despite beating them in the confederations cup, Spain seems to still view America as a country void of any real handle on the game. My sense is that Spain is about where England was early in this decade. Prior to the 02 World Cup, US soccer was seen in England as just something to be mocked. That has definitely changed in the UK, as well as in Germany and much of northern Europe. But in southern Europe – Spain (and I think Italy as well) – the U.S. is still viewed as a real soccer backwater.

Much of this has to do simply with less interaction between the U.S. and Spain. Brits are more culturally and politically in tune with the comings and goings in the U.S. They followed Beckham’s travails closely, there are plenty of Americans chopping wood in the premiership, and the growth of the game in America has been a real topic of interest. In Germany and northern Europe, English is spoken more widely and American athleticism and style of play melded well with the Bundesliga, making U.S. players a good fit.

In Spain, we simply haven’t penetrated. No one seemed to have any sense that the U.S. had made considerable progress over the last two decades. The confederations cup result was viewed really as a fluke – which maybe it was, although I think it was much less so then many made it out to be (as the Brazil game demonstrated) – and did not seem to cause much of a stir amongst Spaniards.

Much of this is because few American players have ever played in La Liga. Jozy Altidore was the big break through, but he hasn’t played that much and yet to emerge there. And Spanish reaction to Beckham going to LA was seen as having nothing to do with soccer or the effort to grow the game, but as all about Becks going to Hollywood for his wife.

However, there is actually something refreshing in still needing to prove ourselves. American soccer has made immense progress internationally, but we still have a long way to go to become a universally respected soccer-playing nation. But gaining the respect of soccer powers like Spain is not just about feeling better about ourselves. It is essential to making us a better soccer nation. On the tour of the Bernabeu I noticed a display in their museum indicating all the countries that have had players on Real. Included was Puerto Rico and Cuba, but no U.S. players (although someone should tell them that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. – we did win the Spanish-American War after all). While American players have begun playing more and more in Europe, we are still absent in one of the best leagues.

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One Response

  1. […] does the next decade hold? Expect over the decade for more Americans to breakthrough in Spain and Italy and for a few more to play in some top sides. Also expect one of those to be considered […]

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