End of Summer Soccer


Major League Soccer played their final regular season games the past week spelling the end of summer soccer.  The playoffs have begun but for the first time in a decade the New England Revolution will not be participating in them.  What a year to start following the Revs after all those years of post-season success (albeit without a MLS Cup trophy to show for it).

Summer soccer is one of the idiosyncrasies that set America apart from the major European leagues that play from August to May.   It’s not obstinacy on the part of United States soccer, but the fact that parts of the United States have far more severe winters  than much of Europe.  Teams playing in Massachusetts, Colorado, and New Jersey just could not host home games in the winter, or at least draw a devoted crowd in the midst of a blizzard.

In my ongoing effort to learn more about football worldwide, I decided to see if anyone else plays in the winter.  I figured that Russia is a cold, cold place so they  must play in the summer.  And I was right.  Except not for long because Russia will be switching to an autumn-to-spring calendar in 2012-13.  Good luck to fans of FC Zenit Saint Petersburg in February.  Brrr.  Scandinavian nations also play on a summer schedule and, oddly enough, the League of Ireland switched to a summer schedule in 2003 (I haven’t figured out why).  The Australian A-League also plays a summer schedule although their summer is our winter.

Anyhow, here’s the matches I’ve watched in the past week and a half.

AFC Ajax 2:1 Auxerre (19 Oct 2010) –  This match saw Ajax win their first match of the Champions League this season to go with a loss & a tie.  The first half was all Ajax as the Amsterdammers went up 2-0.  The second goal in particular was a brilliant example of team passing and running setting up the goal for El Hamdaoui.  The second half got a little crazy after André Ooijer’s professional foul earned him a red card and forced Ajax to defend their lead with 10 men.  But then the French side went down to 10 men on a handball attempt on the goal. Then in the waning minutes of the game an Auxerre sub was sent off before he even made it on the field!  Comical, to say the least.  Match report.

FC Barcelona 2:0 FC Copenhagen (20 Oct 2010) – Lionel Messi scored both goals for Barça moving them to the top of Group D in the Champions League.  The Danish side had some moments where they seemed to be in control but never really threatened.  Really, Barcelona should have taken advantage of their offensive superiority and score more.  Match report.

New York Red Bulls 2:0 New England Revolution (21 Oct 2010) – The Revs finished off their 2010 campaign with a road game versus the Eastern Conference champions.  It ended as one would expect as a loss, the first time the Red Bulls have defeated the Revs since 2005 breaking a 16-game undefeated streak.  New England looked the better side in the second half but failed to score and then gave up a stoppage time goal.  Wait ’till next year.  Match report.

Tottenham Hotspur 1:1 Everton FC (23 Oct 2010) – One thing I love about European football is the names and there is no better combination than Tottenham and Hotspur who play at the romantically named White Hart Lane.  There also a Premier League power nipping at the heels of the big three so it was something for Everton to earn a point and extend their unbeaten streak to four games.  Everton scored on a fantastic first half free kick by Leighton Baines.  Alas, a rare error by goalkeeper Tim Howard contributed to the Spurs’ equalizer a few minutes later.  Match report.

West Bromwich Albion 2:1 Fulham FC (23 Oct 2010) – Speaking of great names, here is West Brom and their home grounds The Hawthorns.  Things started well for Fulham with a Zoltan Gera strike (scored as an own goal against West Brom) but in the pouring rain the Baggies (lovely nickname too) were able to equalize and then go ahead before the break.  Match report.

Real Zaragoza 0:2 FC Barcelona (23 Oct 2010) – It was all Messi again as Barça earned another easy victory against the La Liga cellar dwellars.  I confess I didn’t watch the whole game as I went to the yard to play soccer with my son, but I did see both of Messi’s goals.  Match report.

AFC Ajax 3:1 Heerenveen (27 Oct 2010) – El Hamdaoui was the hero again with 2 of the goals  in what was a pretty easy victory for Ajax.  Luis Suarez had several chances that were either just stopped by the keeper or bounced off the cross-bar (including two in a matter of seconds) so the score could have been much higher for Ajax.  Match report.

Related posts:

Footy Report


Another fine weekend of European football.  The Revolution won too but I didn’t watch due to the MLB playoffs.  It was a very sport-filled week.

Fulham FC 1:2 Tottenham Hotspur (16 Oct 2010) – I tuned into this London Derby live from Craven Cottage but alas the feed cut out for several minutes, including the minute in which each side scored their first goal.  Fulham opened the scoring with a great run by USA’s Clint Dempsey who fed the ball to Diomansy Kamara to tap in the goal.  The Spurs equalized with a Roman Pavlyuchenko tap-in a few moments later.  In the second half, which I was able to view live, the Spurs would controversially take the lead with a beautiful long-range goal by Tom Huddlestone.  The assistant referrer flagged Tottenham’s William Gallas offside by the referee overruled him and allowed the goal to stand.  Fulham put some pressure on the Spurs goal at the end of the match but were unable to finish and thus earned their first loss of the season (to go with one win and six draws).  Match report.

AFC Ajax 3:0 NAC Breda (16 Oct 2010) –  Ajax hosted the football club with the longest name in the world: Nooit opgeven altijd doorgaan, Aangenaam door vermaak en nuttig door ontspanning, Combinatie (I love little bits of trivia like that).  While long on name, NAC was short on goals and were easily dispatched by Ajax.  Jan Vertonghen, Mounir El Hamdaoui  &
Luis Suárez scored the goals.  Suárez had a particularly beautiful goal on a free kick.  Match report.

FC Barcelona 2:1 Valencia (16 Oct 2010) – A big game for Barcelona as they faced the team at the top of table, playing at Camp Nou where they have lost to Hercules and drawn with Mallorca.  Granted it wasn’t that big a deal because Barcelona has won every other game they’ve played this season and well, they’re Barcelona.  Valencia dominated play in the first half and scored a well-earned goal in the 37th minute.  A rejuvenated Barça squad came out after half-time and equalized within 90 seconds on a great finish by Iniesta.  Barça went ahead with good on a Puyol header in the 69th minute.  They had to make things interesting after all.  Match report.

Everton FC 2:0 Liverpool FC (17 Oct 2010) – The biggest match of the weekend for me was the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park where Liverpool visited Everton in their first game since being acquired by the Boston-based NESV group.  The new owners haven’t had a chance to fix the Reds yet and the Toffemen took the opportunity to kick them while they are down.  Tim Cahill put Everton ahead in the 33rd minute but Mikel Arteta’s long-range blast in the 49th minute was a thing of beauty.  All in all a satisfying match and a great second consecutive win for Everton .   Match report.

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Sister City’s Soccer


I discovered this week that Barcelona is a sister city of my hometown of Boston, MA.  This gives me a good reason to support FC Barcelona for what better way to foster goodwill and cultural exchange than through sport?  It also means I don’t have to feel like a heel of a frontrunner picking one of the best football clubs in the world to follow.

I thought it would be fun to look through the list of Boston Sister Cities and see what other soccer teams I could potentially support (in my admittedly dwindling free time):

Kyoto, JapanKyoto Sanga F.C. plays in the J. League Division 1, finishing in 12th place last season.

Strasbourg, France – The historic Racing Club de Strasbourg has fallen on hard times in recent years and play in France’s third division Championnat National after being relegated from Ligue 2 last season.

Hangzou, China – Hangzhou Nabel Greentown F.C. finished 15th in the most recently completed season of the Chinese Super League.

Padua, Italy – Calcio Padova finished 19th in Serie B and managed to avoid relegation in the play-outs.

Melbourne, Australia – Home to two teams in the A-League, 2-time champions Melbourne Victory FC who finished 2nd last season and expansion club Melbourne Heart FC playing their inaugural season.

Tapei, Tawain, Republic of China – I think the closest I can find to a premier club team in this city is Tatung F.C. of  the Intercity Football League.

Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana – This Ghanaian city has two football clubs, both of whom were relegated from the Glo Premier League to the Poly Tank Division One League at the end of last season: Sekondi Eleven Wise and Sekondi Hasaacs F.C.

Haifa, Israel – Haifa has two clubs as well both playing in the Israeli Premier League: Maccabi Haifa F.C. (2nd) and Hapoel Haifa F.C. (11th)

Boston, England – The original Boston has a club on the 7th level of the English football pyramid, Boston United F.C., charmingly nicknamed The Pilgrims.   I think the Revolution could take them.

I think some of these clubs should be invited to an off-season tournament in Boston, MA, perhaps the next Fenway Football Challenge.   Of course there’s one world class football club that may soon have a strong connection to Boston and that is Liverpool!  As an Everton supporter, I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Here are the games I’ve watched the past week:

AFC Ajax 1:1 AC Milan (28 Sep 2010) – An exciting Champions League match saw my Amsterdam side host Berlusconi’s Bandits from Milan.  At least two of Milan’s players once played for Ajax, including their goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was assisted by form Ajax player Clarence Seedorf.  Mounir El Hamdaoui continued his impressive first season with Ajax by providing the opening goal of the match.  Match report.

Rubin Kazan 1:1 FC Barcelona (29 Sep 2010) – On paper, Barcelona outmatched Rubin Kazan but this match ended in a disappointing draw.  The Russian side tied Barcelona in last season’s Champions League match at home and even more surprisingly won the match at Nou Camp.  Rubin Kazan’s continued success against is the type of thing that will make sports commentators say “they’ve got Barcelona’s number” (and they did say so in the post-game) .  Match report.

Birmingham City FC 0:2 Everton FC (2 Oct 2010) – The Blues wore their hot pink kits to their away match St. Andrews in Birmingham.  To confuse things further Birmingham wore blue and are also known as The Blues.   Everton seemed to have better control of the ball but the two sides went to half-time scoreless.  In the 54th minute the Everton attack paid off with an own goal by Birmingham’s Roger Johnson.  Late in the game, Everton appeared  to drop back into defense allowing Birmingham to attack, attack, attack with Everton just clearing.  To my novice eyes this seemed a poor strategy, and perhaps because I’ve been watching too many Revolution games, I expected the equalizing goal at any minute. I was happy to be proved wrong as Everton not only held the lead but Tim Cahill added another goal in the third minute of stoppage time for Everton’s first win of the season!   Match report.

FC Barcelona 1:1 RCD Mallorca (3 Oct 2010) – I only saw the first half of this game but caught all the scoring.  It looked like the Barcelona Globetrotters against the Mallorca Generals as Barcelona dominated possession and toyed with their lesser opponent.  And yet, Mallorca managed to equalize near the end of the first half and hold on for the draw.  Quiet a shocking disapointment for Barcelona.  Match report.

Related posts:

Soccer Heartbreak and Gut Punches


The local teams provided the heartbreak and gut punches this week although I also watched some entertaining European matches, albeit lacking the same emotional commitment.

AFC Ajax 5:0 MVV Maastricht (22 Sep 2010) – This KNVB Cup match saw Ajax hosting a Eerste Divisie (Dutch first division) opponent.  There was no upset by the minnows from Maasricht with the game clearly a romp by Ajax.  Ajax even started some of their younger players such as Florian Jozefzoon who scored his first goal.  The rout wasn’t interesting but the web stream I watched had Dutch commentary in the first half and no commentary at all in the second half.  I enjoyed listening to the crowd chants and drumming, and even the shouts of the players on the field.  Match report.

FC Dallas 2:2 New England Revolution (22 Sep 2010) – This is my fault.  I started writing the match report in my head at about 75 minutes.  I was excited that the Revs could play on the road versus a team with a 15-game undefeated streak and carry out a convincing shutout.  They even survived a penalty kick by FC Dallas that went wide.  Then in the 80th minute Darrius Barnes took down David Ferreira in the penalty area and he didn’t miss the PK this time.  Suddenly it was a knuckle-biter to see if the Revs could hold on for the win but Jeff Cunningham’s stoppage-time equalizer seemed almost inevitable.  Match report.

Boston Breakers 1:2 (OT) Philadelphia Independence (23 Sep 2010) – The WPS Super Semifinal started well with the Breakers hosting in Harvard’s new soccer stadium which has less seating more spacious field and a complete absence of football gridiron markings.  The Breakers scored first on Lauren Cheney’s 22nd minute goal and had the better run of play in the first half although Caroline Seger equalized for Philadelphia in the 29th minute.  Boston looked outmatched and tired in the second half but held the score to a 1-1 tie into overtime.  Then came the heartbreak on an apparent handball by Philadelphia’s Danesha Adams.  Handball or not, the Breakers lethargic play allowed too many opportunities for Philadelphia.  They put together a great desperation attack in the final minutes with one excellent chance on goal, but it was too little, too late.  Match report.

FC Twente 2:2 AFC Ajax – Another hotly contested Eredivisie match for Ajax this time against the reigning title holders.  The pre-game histrionics at Twente’s Grolsch Veste included banners the size of entire section of the stadium, explosions and red flares, and unison singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (at least Wikipedia says it is that song, it sounded like something else, maybe being sung in Dutch?).   They put US sports’ fans to shame. Ajax went down early on a gorgeous finish by Twente’s midfielder Theo Jansen.  Ajax equalized a few minutes later with a clean follow-up by Morrocan star Mounir El Hamdaoui.  Jansen scored again an hour into the game but Ajax fired back six minutes later with a blistering long-range shot by Eyong Enoh.  That was all the scoring but this was an exciting, fast-paced game with lots of end-to-end play, shots deflected by the wood, and great saves by the keepers.  A point well earned for Ajax.   Match report.

Athletic Bilbao 1:3 FC Barcelona (25 Sep 2010) – In the pouring rain, Barça faced off their host in a another Messi-less league match.  I learned that Bilbao tries to maintain a roster of players entirely from the Basque country and despite the limited player pool have never been relegated and are among the top La Liga teams of all time.  Nevertheless, they were no match for the champions who may have been a little sloppy in the mud and should’ve had more goals.  Bilbao should get some credit for managing to hold Barcelona goalless for almost an hour despite losing a player to a red card.  Things were interesting in the last five minutes of the match when Barça lost David Villa to a red card and Bilbao scored their goal to make it 1:2.  Busquets ended any intrigue with Barça’s third goal in stoppage time.  Match report.

New England Revolution 2:2 Columbus Crew (25 Sep 2010) – I hate reruns.  In this case, the Revolution had a convincing 2-0 lead (scoring the first goal 80 seconds into the match) against one of the top teams in the MLS, only to allow their opponent to score two goals late in the second half and settle for a tie.  How can a team so low in the standings with no realistic hope for the playoffs still have so many gut-punching loses?  Match report.

FC Gold Pride 4:0 Philadelphia Independence (26 Sep 2010) – The WPS Championship match featured the best team by far in the WPS facing the upstart spoilsports from Philadelphia.  I actually hoped that the Independence would make something of their unlikely position in the final after eliminating the Breakers, but it was not be.  I’ve grown fond of Amy Rodriguez and glad that we have her on the US national team at least.  The star for the Independence however was goalkeeper Val Henderson who made several great saves while the rest of her team could do little before in front of her.  Still, 4 goals ended up in the Independence’s net and that was that for the WPS season and congratulations to FC Gold Pride for dominating the 2010 season. Match report.

Fútbol & Voetbal


FC Barcelona 5:1 Panathinaikos (14 Sep 2010) – Barça opened the Champions League season against their obviously mismatched Greek opponents.  Panathinaikos looked like they could only touch the ball long enough to clear in the first 20 minutes, but then Gouvou surprisingly opened the scoring on a fast break.  That would be it for Panathinaikos as Lionel Messi quickly equalized, David Villa put Barça ahead, and then Messi added another goal for a 3-1 halftime lead.  Messi had a chance for a hat trick in the second half from the penalty spot but a very weak kick was easily blocked.  Daniel Alves and Pedro Rodriguez added goals to run up the score in this laugher wher Barça had possession for 76% of the match.  Match report.

Feyenoord Rotterdam 1:2 AFC Ajax (19 Sep 2010) – The Klassieker is the Dutch derby between the top Dutch football clubs and the major cities of the Netherlands.  This match-up is sadly marred by fighting in the stands and rioting in the streets.  And it’s not just the supporters as the on-field fisticuffs in the second half of this game can attest.   Ajax scored late in the first half and early in the second half, and despite the contentious of the match and a late Feyenoord goal the game was pretty much in Ajax’s hands all the way through. Match report.

Atlético Madrid 1:2 FC Barcelona (19 Sep 2010) – Apparently Barcelona has had bad luck on away games against Atlético Madrid in recent years and with Atlético off to a strong start, Barça were at risk of losing back-to-back league games.  In the end Barça won the game but lost Lionel Messi.  Leo scored the first goal for Barcelona and Pique put them ahead for good, their goals sandwiching a goal by Atlético’s Raul Garcia, all within the first 32 minutes of play.  Barcelona dominated play for most of the game and things turned physical toward the end of the match leading to the hard foul in stoppage time that injured Messi’s ankle.  Still, I liked Atlético’s fighting underdog spirit, and it was good to see one of my favorite players from the World Cup – Diego Forlan – even though he was not a key player in the game .  Match report.

I’ve noted before that Barcelona includes 8 players from the World Cup champions and Lionel Messi (not to mention a couple of Brazilians).  The concentration of talent on one roster has made it fashionable to hate Barcelona as discussed in this interesting Run of Play article by Eric Freeman.

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Soccer Weekend


I’ve decided to update my weekly soccer-watching reports on Mondays instead of Fridays so that the posts will be up more immediately after most games are played.  I watched a lot this weekend (albeit some in highlight reels) so this is a pretty full post all the same.

Chivas USA 2:0 New England Revolution (10 Sep 2010) – The Revs took their playoff hopes to Los Angeles to face one of the worst teams in the leagues.  And played flat out embarrassingly falling behind in the first 6 minutes and hardly possessing the ball in the first half.   Hard to believe this is the same team that played so well against Seattle or for that matter even the team that suffered those disheartening losses against Chicago and Philadelphia. At least the team showed some life in those games. This side is all but mathematically eliminated. Match report.

AFC Ajax 2:0 Willem II (11 Sep 2010) – I missed the game but was able to watch a 9-minute highlight film on YouTube of my Amsterdam side’s home win.  Their opponent Willem II are from the Dutch city of Tilburg and are charmingly named for a Dutch king who reigned from 1840-49.  They just barely avoided relegation from the Eredivisie last season and were suitably outmatched by Ajax.  All the scoring took place on penalty shots though as Willem II players blatantly tripped up Ajax attackers in the penalty area in a nearly identical manner.  Uruguayan captain Luis Suarez handily fired both penaltieshttps://othemts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5116&action=edit&message=10 into the net.  I’m pleased with the results but I’m always a little disappointed in a game when there’s no scoring from the field.  Match report.

FC Barcelona 0:2 Hércules CF (11 Sep 2010) – I also watched the highlight reel for this one.  Barça hosted at Camp Nou the Hércules club from Alicante who were just promoted from the Segunda Division.  In shades of the Kaiserlautern-Bayern match, Hércules totally outplayed their higher-ranked hosts with two exciting goals and some great defending and goal-keeping all while wearing bumble bee outfits.  Barcelona will just have to shake off this shocking loss as they head into their Champions League match opener versus Panathinaikos.  Match report.

Everton FC 3:3 Manchester United (11 Sep 2010) – The most exciting game of the day was in Liverpool.  Everton took an early lead on a Steven Pienaar goal and along with some fine stops by goalkeeper Tim Howard things were looking good.  But then Man Utd scored 3 unanswered goals and it looked like a romp.  The dramatic conclusion came in stoppage time at the end of the game where Everton scored not one but two goals by Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta to steal a point away from the match.  Everton even had yet another chance as the final whistle blew. Wow! Very reminiscent of Man Utd’s draw with Fulham.   Match report.

Fulham FC 2:1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (11 Sep 2010) – Speaking of Fulham, here’s another good game with an exciting finish.  Fulham went down a goal in the first half and then lost forward Bobby Zamora to a broken leg.  Mousa Dembele turned things around with an equalized near the start of the second half and the winner in stoppage time for Fulham’s first win of the season to go with three draws.  Match report.

Mainz 05 2:1 1. FC Kaiserlautern (12 Sep 2010) – 1FCK won me over with their scrappy upset of Bayern.  In this game they attempted to continue their success on the road in a regional derby (although a fairly recent one) with Mainz 05.  The Mainz spectators creeped me out with their pregame tableau of a skull-covered ziggurat and a priest ripping out the heart of 1FCK.  The Red Devils tried to rip out the heart of Mainz with the first goal of the match at 21 minutes which they held for some time despite being outplayed (and being “bad boys” – as the commentator noted – accruing numerous yellow cards).  Sadly, the home side equalized at 71 minutes and went ahead 3 minutes later, and that was that. Match report.

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Soccer Week in Review


My soccer-watching exploits for the past week.

AFC Ajax vs. Vitesse (14 Aug 2010) – I have to admit that this is the kind of game I enjoy watching.  Granted I’m sure the football purist found the defensive lapses on both sides lacking.  But I liked how the lead changed several times in the first half.  I like how three goals were scored in about 5 minutes of the first half.  I like how Ajax scored a goal within seconds of kicking off the second half.  I like that the over-matched Vitesse despite being outplayed by Ajax seemed to have a chance of pulling off an upset, at least until Ajax scored their fourth goal.  I like that Ajax won.  Match report.

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (18 Aug 2010) –   Tuned in hoping to see the Revs extend their 8-game unbeaten streak and streak of not allowing goals in league games, but alas it didn’t finish well.  The Revolution took an early lead in a very entertaining first half on a goal by Marko Perovic.  Chicago equalized in the 32nd minute.  Then the game began to get bogged down with penalties with most of the calls – and some non-calls – going against New England.  The most egregious referee error was not calling a penalty when Perovic was knocked down in the Chicago penalty area in the 90th minute.  Boston Globe coverage.

FC Bayern München vs. VfL Wolfsburg (20 Aug 2010) –  I watched this game on ESPN 3 which didn’t show the first 30 minutes of the game nor was there any commentary.  It was interesting to watch a televised match with only the sound of cheers and drumming of the fans.  The game was very defensive when I first tuned in with Bayern protecting a 1-0 lead.  There were so many back passes it seemed the two sides were playing toward their own goals.  The second half opened with Wolfsburg making an impressive barrage of long-range shots stopped only by the goal post before finally putting in a header off a corner kick.  With the score tied Bayern took control of the ball and got many free kicks due to the suddenly desperate physicality of Wolfsburg.  It looked like it would end a 1-1 tie but instead Bayern won the game dramatically on a stoppage time goal by Bastian Schweinsteiger.  Match report.

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Forming an Association with Football (aka Soccer)


For many, many years I’ve been meaning to pay more attention to soccer.  It’s a sport I enjoy both on the field as well as it’s history and folklore. Soccer has been part of my life since I was a child and played in the Stamford Youth Soccer League and watched New York Cosmos games. Yet I find many obstructions to following the game today outside of the quadrennial FIFA World Cup.  These include:

  1. I live in the United States where soccer coverage is hard to come by, even for our local professional teams.  I seem to be able to take in news of American Football (which I dislike) by osmosis, but have to dig deep to fin anything about soccer.
  2. I don’t own a television.  Even if I did, I probably couldn’t afford the cable packages that include coverage of European football.  Local saloons generally don’t show soccer games either, especially if there’s a Red Sox game on.
  3. I have a family, and a job, and lots of preoccupations that suck up my time.

Nevertheless, with the seasons beginning in the European leagues, I’m committing myself to trying to follow some teams in addition to my local Boston teams:

The choice of teams is somewhat arbitrary although with exception of Barcelona, all of these teams are from cities I’ve visited and enjoyed.

I started today by watching Ajax’s opening match at FC Groningen online. After a quiet first half, things were looking good for my new favorite Dutch side.  Ajax’s new Moroccan forward Mounir El Hamdaoui scored two goals to put the team comfortably ahead.  But as the minutes ticked away in the second half, Ajax gave those two goals back and had to settle for a tie.  According to a tweet I read this is “the first time they give away 2 goal-lead since losing 4-2 at Vitesse on 24 December 2006.”   More on the game from the Ajax website.  I actually missed bot of El Hamdaoui’s goals as I was distracted by my son, but that’s okay, that’s what replays are for.

So as the season continues I’ll try to update on my spectator experiences.  If anyone has any tips or resources for the novice fan, please put them in the comments.  And yes, I do plan to continue to use the word soccer.  I like it’s distinctive and unambiguous sound compared to the more pedestrian football.