June 8, 2010
Americans get a kick out of Soccer every four years by David Weinberg
Every four years or so, everybody starts talking about soccer.
Casual sports fans, who otherwise watch baseball and football, become patriotic and tune in to see the World Cup, the largest sporting event on Earth. The month-long tournament in South Africa begins Friday.
But if you visit just about any town in southern New Jersey on a Saturday morning in the spring or fall, you might think soccer was the national pastime.
In Lower Township, every spare patch of grass has a set of soccer nets. On Bayshore Road in North Cape May, games are played on a field nestled next to Turdo Vineyards. The sidelines are packed with parents watching their shinguard-wearing children trying to score goals while visitors to the nearby winery sip chardonnay and merlot.
“Soccer’s even more popular in the fall,” said Zachary Zelwak, Lower Township’s supervisor of parks and recreation. “That’s when we put up nets in the outfields of our Little League (baseball) complex.”
Soccer will replace baseball in the forefront of the national landscape for the next month. Americans who normally reserve their patriotism for Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July will be waving flags and chanting “USA, USA” in sports bars.
But once the World Cup ends, that fervor will most likely disappear. Local fans often revert to following the sports they grew up watching. Their attention will be focused on seeing whether the Phillies can make it to a third straight World Series while waiting for the Eagles’ season to start.
“Soccer has been around England and a lot of other countries for hundreds of years compared to 10 years here in the United States,” said English native Neil Holloway, who is the coach and general manager for the Ocean City Nor’Easters of the Premier Development League. “It’s more like a religion than a sport in some countries. People are raised on it.”
Check back next week for the continuation of this article.