Five years ago I wouldn’t be caught dead writing about soccer. To me soccer was a “boring” sport; people running up and down a huge field trying to kick a ball into a net – something that seemed like a rare event. There were no timeouts and lots of tie games and it seems the game hinges too much on the refs (this is still true today).
But something happened along the way…
they say as you grow older, you also grow wiser. That must be the case as I now enjoy watching soccer.
- Virtually no commercials.
- It’s the most popular universal sport.
- World Cup tournaments are exciting.
- It’s a test of stamina.
- Because it’s hard to score a goal, it makes every goal your team makes a “sweet victory”.
- No strikes!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid football fan and it will always be my favorite sport (knock on wood), but soccer is climbing the charts. All you have to do is watch a game like today’s USA versus Brazil women’s soccer game to be reminded at how exciting and emotional of a sport soccer can be. The United States had just come off an unexpected loss to Sweden. A loss to Brazil and they would be eliminated from the World Cup. A win and they would go on to the semi-finals.
Even though I now like soccer, I still believe the game hinges too much on refs. As a result, in soccer, more than any other sport, players fake injuries to try and get refs to card a player on the opposing team. It happens so much, that it’s almost laughable.
But something happened in today’s game that went way too far. After a controversial ref call resulted in Brazil getting a goal and tying the game in regulation, the game went into overtime. There, Brazil scored to take a 2-1 lead over the US Women’s team. As time was winding down to the last five minutes, the United States was threatening to score and building up momentum to try and tie the game. At this point, one of the Brazilian players looked over to her bench, then suddenly collapsed on the field (as if on cue). Since there are no “timeouts” or “stoppage of time” in soccer, a ref adds on some additional time at the end of regulation for the time they perceive was used up with “stoppage” during the regular period (which is usually a lot less than the actual stoppage time).
So when the Brazilian player went down, there was an assumption that she was trying to kill the U.S. momentum while killing clock time too. But then trainers came out with a stretcher and put the young lady onto the stretcher. Wow, maybe she wasn’t faking it, after all. The trainers lifted the stretcher and started to take her off the field. The second they got out of bounds (with play resuming), the woman jumped off the stretcher and ran back into the game.
It was a major embarrassment to the sport of soccer and to the Women’s Brazilian soccer team.
Here’s how ESPN describes it:
“A desperate Brazil relied upon an array of amateur dramatics to run out the clock. Defender Erika was suddenly struck by an injury requiring prolonged treatment and the arrival of the Brazilian stretcher. This stretcher was evidently gifted with the kind of miracle healing powers traditionally only seen on religious telethons. Within seconds, she had leapt up and raced back onto the field…”
And here’s how New England Soccer News describes the incident:
“Remarkably, it might have been a case of gamesmanship by the Brazilians that ultimately cost them the game. In the 113th minute, Erika went down, untouched in her own penalty area. After eating up more than three minutes of time, she was stretchered off and immediately popped up off the stretcher ready to re-enter the game. She was immediately shown a yellow by Melksham, and the resulting added time led to Wambach’s goal.”
But more, the move (along with some bad ref calls earlier) started to turn a neutral crowd in Germany into USA fans. It was amazing to hear the chants as the crowd had now chosen a team to root for.
After that stunt, regulation time ended and the ref announced three minutes of additional time was being added for stoppage during the game, including the stretcher incident. The US had only three minutes to tie the game and force a penalty kick scenario to survive. With one minute left in the additional play time, the United States women’s team did just that – tie the game on an amazing header shot into the net. That sent the game into the penalty kick phase where the United States took the victory, scoring five times in penalty kicks to Brazil’s three times. It was one of the most thrilling soccer games ever (men or women) and was an amazing victory for a team that was one minute away from elimination.
The game reminded me why I am a soccer fan now. But I’m not quite ready, yet, to run out and buy a Vuvuzela!