Posts Tagged ‘West Germany’

U.S. Men’s International Soccer Has Come a Long Way

May 30, 2010

My first World Cup memory was in 1974 when my family lived in West Germany (West Germany not only hosted but also won the 1974 World Cup). To this day, I recall that Zaire and Haiti were two teams in that World Cup.

To nobody’s surprise, both teams lost big. Zaire, which is today called Congo, lost 2-0 to Scotland, 9-0 to Yugoslavia, and 3-0 to Brazil. (I did not realize until now that Zaire was the first African country ever to participate in a World Cup.) Haiti lost 3-1 to Italy, 7-0 to Poland, and 4-1 to Argentina. At least Haiti scored two goals!

Only much later did I learn that Haiti was part of CONCACAF and was the only country from the North or Central American region to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Not bad for a small island country that had to compete against the U.S. and Mexico to qualify.

The U.S. had competed in past World Cups and actually came in third place in the 1930 World Cup. However, back then there was not the rigorous qualifying process that exists today and many teams were invited simply if they could afford the trip (the 1930 World Cup was held in Uruguay). However, it was not until Paul Caligiuri’s miracle goal against Trinidad & Tobago that qualified the U.S. for the 1990 World Cup that the U.S. started to establish itself as a regular on the World Cup scene.

The United States’ best World Cup performance was in 2002 when it beat Portugal and Poland and tied host South Korea in the group stage. Then they beat Mexico 2-0 in the second round but lost 1-0 to eventual runner-up Germany in the quarterfinal match.

The biggest disappointment was in 2006 when five minutes into their first game against the Czech Republic, the U.S. gave up the first of three goals, essentially ending their World Cup before it ever started. They did, however, manage a 1-1 tie against eventual-champions Italy in a game they really should have won. It was also the only game the Italians failed to win that year.

Who knows what 2010 will have in store for the U.S. team? The chances are good that they will advance out of Group C despite having to play England in its first match. If they don’t advance, 2010 will be considered a huge disappointment. Should they advance, the best potential second-round opponent–Germany–will be without their captain, Michael Ballack. If last year’s Confederation Cup is any indication, when the U.S. beat Spain and lost in the finals to Brazil 3-2 after being up 2-0 at halftime, the U.S. will do very good.

Good luck. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Pre- and Post-Game Sportsmanship Rituals

March 11, 2010

When I played in West Germany as a first, second, and third grader, I was chosen to be a captain one year. At the time, there was a tradition that both teams followed before and after each game. Before the game:

  1. The home and away captains, followed by the respective starting goalies and then the rest of the players (no coaches) walked to the center of the field separated by the half-way line.
  2. When the team captains reached the center of the field, the teams stopped and faced each other.
  3. Then the home captain said the following cheer, “Wir begrüßen unsere Gegner mit einem dreifachen Hip Hip … Hurra, Hip Hip … Hurra, Hip Hip … Hurra”. Translated, the captain declared, “We welcome our opponents with three cheers.” Then the whole team got involved. The captain said, “Hip-hip” and the rest of the team responded with, “Hoo-rah” in unison. This was done three times.
  4. Then the opposing captain and team repeated the same cheer.

After the game, the teams again lined up across from each other. The captains and teams took turns declaring, “Wir bedanken uns bei unseren Gegnern mit einem dreifachen Hip Hip …. Hurra,  Hip Hip … Hurra, Hip Hip … Hurra”. Translated: “We thank our opponents with three cheers … hip-hip, hoo-rah … hip-hip, hoo-rah … hip-hip … hoo-rah”.

I think it is fantastic that many teams engage in a ceremonial handshake at the end of games. It teaches players good sportsmanship. It also allows players and teams to put aside disagreements or hard feelings that may have percolated during the game. It is important to learn to leave these feelings on the field.

I also love what professional teams do before a game. Players walk onto the field hand-in-hand with youth soccer players. Both teams face and salute the crowd. Then one team moves down the line, first shaking the hands of the referees followed by the hands of the opponents. Once the first team is done, the opponents shake the hands of the referees.

I strongly encourage leagues to formally adopt some sort of pre- and post-game ritual.

  • It should be done for all games, regardless if it is a scrimmage or a state championship game.
  • It sets the right tone for the game as well as after the game.
  • It gives the players an opportunity to acknowledge parents and fans (and vice versa).
  • It teaches players good sportsmanship.
  • The ‘pomp and circumstance’ makes the games more meaningful and memorable.

Are there other pre- and post-game rituals that leagues engage in? Readers of ‘Improving Soccer in the United States’ would love to hear about them.


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