(And I’m not talking about the generation of teenage fans of a certain Canadian pop star)
For a few weeks, United States Soccer captured our hearts and engrossed our lives. We gathered around TV screens in bars, streamed the games on computers, and counted down the days to every kickoff. Soccer dominated the headlines on SportsCenter and numerous webpages. The game, and this team, had our attention; it’s safe to assume there was a marked downturn in productivity during the US games.
Admittedly, we did not have the best start out of the gate. First, Landon Donovan was left off the team after becoming the face of US soccer over the past decade. Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments about the US not being in serious contention to win the World Cup did nothing to improve his image. A tough draw with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana led to grim expectations for the US chances.
But like is the American way, we rallied. We cheered for team, we expected nothing but the best. We believed anyway, and excitement for the World Cup reached a fever pitch. For the first time, it seemed like an entire country was invested in our team. Social media saw fans proudly assert their allegiance on Facebook and soon #IBelieve was trending on Twitter. At the start of the US opener, millions of people were chanting “I Believe That We Will Win” (it doesn’t hurt that it’s such a catchy phrase).
Thirty seconds later, Clint Dempsey’s shot off the post found the back of the net for one of the fastest goals to start a team’s World Cup campaign. Suddenly, the expert opinions didn’t matter; all that mattered was the belief that we would win. And America embraced that belief. Klinsmann’s enthusiasm on the sideline was infectious. John Brooks became an overnight hero. A country’s heart beat with this team. While millions of fans watched, the US shocked many by advancing out of the group stage. And though their first game in the knockout round ended with a heartbreaking loss to Belgium, they fought to the very end with a goal in extra time, nearly a second one on a brilliantly executed free kick, and some unbelievable saves by Tim Howard. The journey ended abruptly, but the effort sent the message that US Soccer is striving toward the top tier of international soccer. I believe that we will get there.
Soccer is not as popular as other sports in the US, and after the World Cup interest in the sport will probably decline. It might take a while for the US to compete on the same level as Brazil, Germany, or the Netherlands. But it is not the American way to sit quietly in the background or patiently wait our turn. We’re going to fight to make it happen, and this country will be behind our team every step of the way. It takes a lot to win a World Cup: the right players, the right coach, and a bit of luck. Will we get there eventually? Yes. Maybe not in 4 years, maybe not in 8 years, but we will get there. Because an entire nation believes we will. I Believe That We Will Win. It may just be a cheer, but there’s no reason to believe that we can’t win. AN