Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soccer Evangelism

Much has been made over the past few weeks about soccer all over the MSM and the internet. To start with, there's the World Cup. But the real debate has been over whether soccer is an un-American sport, and whether it's worth wasting playing and viewing time on it at all. American liberals seem to love it, though European and non-USA Western Hemisphere players tend to make American football and basketball players look like true gentlemen.

Many American conservatives seem to see soccer as a "socialist sport" with strange rules, ever-moving "sides," and the only sport where the players are encouraged to hit the ball with their heads. They also question the adoption of a sport which takes time away from the "national sport" of baseball or the American original sport of basketball. Football (the American brand of football) is all about contact, where soccer is all about the appearance of avoiding bodily contact, but sneakily hamstringing your opponent if possible.

But everybody and his brother have already discussed this at length, so I'm going to turn my attention to one seemingly-odd facet of the game. The trend in Brazilian soccer has followed the general trend throughout Brazil. For some reason, still to be determined, Evangelical Christianity has taken root, grown and blossomed. Out of a total population of approximately 190 million people, 27 million identify themselves with the evangelical form of Protestant Christianity.

The ruffians who populate most of the world's teams ("civilized" Britain is notorious for its substitution of team membership for gang membership) are in far less prominence on the Brazilian team. Four of the eleven Brazilian national team are evangelicals. Their conversion to emotional Christianity has wrought amazing changes in the converted members, and a change in those who have not (yet) converted. Brazil's captain is named Lucio, and ten years ago he was noted for him viciousness and bad temper, including head-butting his own teammate in an Olympic semifinal.

Another notable convert is the renowned Kaka (OK, I'm not going anywhere with that name). Another former field tough guy, Kaka now wears an undershirt that says "I belong to Jesus," points to the sky after doing something noteworthy on the field, and is planning to become a pastor when his soccer career is over. Their former playboy lifestyles, along with those of many of their teammates, have altered radically. Where once there was individual show-off superstarism, there is now a discipline and team player mentality that results in scoring.

And what are professional sports without lots and lots of sex with the fans? That's not a question you ask the current team. Kaka even verbally attacked his own prior coach for allowing the players to have sex with women not their wives, and declared himself a virgin prior to his 2006 marriage. Now, instead of conjugal visits, the players spend their down time at Bible studies during practice.

Former superstar player for Brazil, Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri, retired after the Brazilian World Cup competition in 1994, returned as coach of the Brazilian team. More popularly known as "Dunga," Verri had the same conversion, and brought his soccer skills and religious beliefs to the team upon his return as coach. There is a religious zeal for victory over the other team which is almost as if the boys were defeating evil rather than another soccer team. They might be right. As writer James Downie points out, "one could call it 'Calvinist' football--not the Brazil of the past, but maybe the Brazil of the future." And the boys on the team consider themselves Calvin's "elect."

18 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

I have no opinion on the religious aspect, but I will say that I do not believe Americans will ever adopt soccer. I will also say that the vuvuzela horns suck -- great way to ruin an entertaining tournament.

StanH said...

Soccer-sucks!

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: It does seem likely that no matter how hard they try to convince Americans, soccer will never become a meaningful sport here in the States.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: That's a good short version of my opinion of the game. I have friends who are avid soccer players and soccer fans, so I've really tried to get into the game. It just doesn't work. The activity on the field always reminds me of an ant colony after you push a pointed stick into their nest.

StanH said...

Too me it’s another defining point as to the greatness of our country, we’re right and the rest of the world is wrong.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: I hadn't really thought of it that way before, but now that you mention it, hmmmmm.

CalFederalist said...

LawHawk. I've tried to like the game too. But every time some zebra throws down "a card" because someone was "off sides," I want to scream "sides--what sides? Where's the damn line?" We have baselines in baseball, free throw lines and mid-court lines in basketball, and lines of scrimmage in football. Where are the lousy lines in soccer?

LawHawkRFD said...

CalFed: I've had the same problem. There's some rule about where the players are in relation to each other and their playing position and where the ball is (or was) located that determines where the sides are. But that keeps moving as the players move around the field. It all seems like way too much work when the real goal is to score points.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--I don't know how much the religious angle affects the win/loss ratio, but it sure goes a long way toward making these guys into better human beings. And at least as far as the Brazilian team goes, it seems to have had a very positive affect on their attitude toward their teammates and how they should work together for the common good (a win, in this case).

LawHawkRFD said...

HamiltonsGhost: I also noticed that the Brazilian team converts are a bit demonstrative in their open displays of thanks to God for goals or exceptional plays, but it also seems completely genuine and heartfelt. How different from American football and basketball players who sport huge diamond-encrusted crosses but trash-talk their teammates and take credit for every victory while breaking eleven of the Ten Commandments on a regular basis.

JB1000 said...

Offsides in soccer. When one player passes the ball or kicks it at goal, there must be one player on the defensive team, besides the goaltender, even with or closer to the goal line than all the offensive players. If an offensive player is in an offside position but not involved in the play or in a position to affect the play, the assistant referee (Guy on the sideline with a flag) can decide not to call the offside.

You cannot be called offside in your own defensive half of the field.

The rule is designed to stop the offensive side from stationing a player beside the goaltender and forcing the defensive team to station a defender nearby.

And I know that none of you care in the least.

I played soccer (poorly) in high school and enjoy watching it on television. I think basketball and baseball are the most boring sports ever invented and I know that makes me unsual for an american sports fan.

LawHawkRFD said...

JB1000: You have plenty of company in people who love the sport. But the rule you just cited is one of the reasons I can't get into the game. It all seems so malleable, and a referee has the right to call or not call what he may or may not consider an off-sides. But don't despair--I still haven't figured out baseball's infield fly rule. LOL

JB1000 said...

Infield Fly rule. With runners on first and second, or first, second and third, a batter who hits a fly ball in the infield is automatically called out. This stops the defensive team from delibrately dropping the fly ball then executing a double or triple play on the runners.

And I doubt anyone cares about that either.

LawHawkRFD said...

JB1000: But I know a baseball rule that nobody else knows--until now. When a batter hits the ball into the outfield, but before it can hit the ground, a pig runs out onto the field, swallows the ball and runs away, you have an inside the pork home run.

Anonymous said...

The rules of soccer are the most simple straight forward of any sport.the rules of pointy football are right in league with the rules of golf,complex beyond sensible.
Because soccer is a game of skill and strategy combined with team coherence instead of grunt blunt force I guess Americans en-mass will never get it.For some one who understands it is a beautiful game.
With so many options for young people to choose from, getting the talented athletic youth to commit to soccer will probably not happen here in the USA. As with any sport, talent alone is not enough, and desire alone won't make it either. Any one can learn the rules of soccer in just a few minutes of reading any of the small pamphlets available that cover the rules. That is unlike Basketball,Football,Baseball and especially Golf.

Tennessee Jed said...

As a kid, I remember soccar as a sport for kids who were in band or ehose moms wouldn't let them play football.

LawHawkRFD said...

Anon: With all due respect, your description of soccer sounds a bit like ballet, and frankly, I don't much care for ballet either. But life would be pretty boring if we all liked the same things.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: All my kids got involved in soccer, but even when it was my own flesh and blood on the field, I just couldn't get too exercised over the games. I never said anything about the game to any of them, but they drifted away from it without my input. The grandkids play, but only because their schoolmates do. I don't see any other signs of soccer enthusiasm in the family.

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