In the World of Football, the American Giant is a Dwarf

The United States of America, the colossus which seeks to impose globalization on the world, even in the most savage manner, is in fact just a dwarf when it comes to one of the most omnipresent manifestations of globalization: sports. Played with an enchanting round ball, the very apex of global sport is football’s World Cup, within which the world is presently immersed in fascination. That event in Germany, which began on June 9, eclipses all other events since the world began.

The crushing defeat that was handed to the United States by the Czech Republic, three goals to zero in America’s first World Cup match, reflects the failure of the United States in the world’s most popular game. America’s inability to grapple with sports globalization is, in reality, not a single but a double failure.

For this also reminds us of America’s failure to impose its own national sports – baseball and American football – on the world. And even when America tried to play football (after renaming it soccer in an attempt to impose its rules for the game just as it does in politics), it failed in its mission and was forced to retreat from its plans for sports hegemony.

At a time when the United States intimidates the entire world with its military might, spending close to half of all global expenditures on weapons, in football it doesn’t frighten a soul. Rather, it might be classified as a mediocre football power. It is a rare occasion when the United States achieves a good result at the World Cup. One such occasion was in 1950, when the United States team pulled off a surprise 1-0 win over Great Britain, halting the British advance toward the championship [RealVideo].

When the real beginning of football in Britain began at the end of the 19th century, the United States refused to even practice in a conscious American attempt to forget the period of British occupation. They preferred instead to stick to the three sports they had invented: baseball, American football, and basketball.

America began playing football with the feet of immigrants, although many quickly turned their backs on the sport they loved to play the three American sports, so that they coul become more a part of American society and to achieve higher social status.

Despite the game’s increased popularity in America, especially after qualifying for the championship five times and hosting the World Cup in 1994, football excites very little interest in the hearts of the great majority of Americans compared to the rest of the world, where an important match can empty the streets.

Though the word of the American colossus is paramount at the United Nations, which the United States hosts on its territory, denying permits to people sent to represent member states to the world body whenever it so wishes, at the International Federation of Association Football in Zurich, America’s power amounts to less than a small country that no one has ever heard of, such as Trinidad and Tobago or Senegal, which defeated France twice in World Cup qualifiers.

Though the American colossus has intervened dozens of times with it’s veto to defend the Hebrew State since the U.N.’s inception in 1948, it weakness at FIFA is such that it failed to pressure that organization to reclassify Israel as part of the Middle East region (for World Cup qualification). So Israelis remain subject to FIFA’s decision to designate it as part of the European region.

And at a time when all other national teams received a warm public reception, of the 32 participating teams, America’s national team was the only World Cup participant not to display the national flag on its bus for fear of exposing U.S. players to hostility. This is due to the war in Iraq, which was roundly rejected in Europe and especially Germany, who together with France led the campaign against America’s invasion of Iraq.

George W. Bush’s recent statements during a visit to Germany this past May reflect the degree of American failure in sports globalization. At the time, he confirmed that he had never watched a single football match in his life, and admitted that it is not at all popular in his country. But faced with the intense interest that Germany and the rest of the world have for the game, Bush promised that he would study the phenomenon, which fills the hearts of billions with joy.

Notwithstanding the democratic world which America leads, the question now is whether President Bush will approach the study of football in the domineering way his administration approaches politics, or will the magic of football and the passion of its billions of fans move him to retreat from policies that have been rejected across the globe?

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