Hogan's Alley

Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup

Being forced to spend so much time at home over the next month, I was thrilled to have it coincide with the World Cup. I may get to see every game in the tournament for the first time ever.

Yes, I am one of the approximately 254 Americans who enjoys world football. It happened by accident. My kids wanted to play soccer with their friends, but the local club was desperate for coaches. Those like me, who were totally ignorant of the game were welcome and a course was offered that licensed us as "F" (the lowest) level coaches in the FIFA scheme of things.

I paired up with a neighbor, who has since become a dear friend, who grew up in Manchester in northern England. While he had never played organized football, he had played many hours of the street version. Together we were able to neutralize our insecurities enough to put on a brave, if still incompetent, front.

As luck would have it, the step-father of one of the kids assigned to our team was a retired professional player from Scotland who had even played internationally for the Scottish team. Jim traveled several days each week in his then current job and was unable to commit to any coaching duties. But he was sympathetic to our problems and, whenever he could, he came to practice and spent time with us after the session coaching us in the business of coaching football. He also contributed several colorful Scots-accented phrases, such as, "Git yer boot on it lad!"

Over the years we learned enough to produce winning seasons for the kids at the "house team" level. I even tried one year as assistant coach on a travel team since one of my sons showed some talent as a goal keeper.

Over those years I learned to love the flow of game tactics, the sudden attacks of the game and the extraordinary skill of the great players.