Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moldovian soccer - catch the fever

What are we on, song 18 of my iPod tour?

Song: Get On Your Boots
Artist: U2

Back when I was a young lad of about 15, the United States hosted the World Cup (most people refer to this as the one month every four years Americans get excited about soccer before going back to their default setting of either denigrating the sport or ignoring it completely.) As luck would have it, before the big event, the U.S. National Team was playing in Jacksonville, Florida and our soccer coach conveniently scheduled some games there so we could then go watch the U.S. team face Moldova.

Now you know where
Moldova is located.
This was a cool experience for a number of reasons. First, it was a chance to see the nation’s best soccer players playing the sport I’d grown up playing and would eventually dedicate the better part of my free time in high school to playing. (Well, soccer and Dungeons and Dragons. No, I didn’t really date in high school, why do you ask?) I don’t remember much about the game, other than I missed the only U.S. goal because I was making a trip to the concession stand. The U.S. ended up tying Moldova 1-1 in a game I’m sure you remember like it was yesterday.

Second, the game gave me a chance to learn about Moldova was. It’s a former Soviet Republic that, as of 1994, had only been an independent nation for about 45 minutes and is located between Romania and the Ukraine. Its glorious soccer history consists almost entirely of tying the U.S. in that fateful game.

While I can’t say that one game turned me into a lifelong soccer fan (even when I was playing regularly, I found soccer on television boring), it did plant the seeds that would eventually lead me to be a casual fan (more than the World Cup, less than arranging my life around the Moldovian professional league schedule.) Today, I’ll watch games on ESPN and online, typically on Saturday mornings. I do spend time reading about soccer online and wish I was in the kind of shape I was when I played anywhere from three to six times a week.

Instead, now I live in a place where I believe I can still do all the things I did in high school until I go out and try it and then I realize I’m miserably out of shape. But I’m still more than happy to live vicariously through the players who can actually play. So when I moved to North Carolina, I was excited to find out they had a professional soccer team (granted, it was a step below Major League Soccer, which is several steps below the top European Leagues, so it’s safe to say I would not be watching the best of the best). Unfortunately, the team disappeared last year amid rumors that the owner didn’t actually pay the players, which is apparently frowned upon by the commissioner of the league. (After a year hiatus, the team is back under new ownership and plays about a mile from my current abode.)

One of these days she'll
know I exist.
Fantasy Update: Despite my best efforts, Catherine Zeta-Jones has yet to acknowledge my existence. In other fantasy news, I had the first of my two fantasy baseball drafts this week on Saturday night. I’m generally pleased with my team as we embark on the regular season. I’ve got my second draft tonight (only my brother is in both leagues with me, so it’s basically a whole new cast of characters.)

Next song: A Conspiracy
Artist: The Black Crowes 

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