Depending on your association with the beautiful sport of soccer, you may or may not have been in a bit of a huff last Friday. You might have been hunting up Mali on Google Earth trying to figure out the best place to lob a couple of cruise missiles, or you might have been chuckling to yourself thinking, "That's soccer!" At this point it's pretty much universally agreed that Malian referee Koman Coulibaly's foul call in the 86th minute of the U.S. vs. Slovenia soccer game was horribly botched. Hindsight is 20/20 - especially when you have the luxury of half a minute of high-def video showing the "controversial" penalty kick where several Slovenian players decided to take piggyback rides on their U.S. opponents (and really, how could they resist draping themselves around those broad, muscular, world-cradling shoulders?) while American midfielder Maurice Edu slides through nearly untouched for an easy goal. That, of course, isn't the way Coulibaly saw it. Forced by FIFA rules to make a split-second decision in what must have appeared on the field to be a roiling clusterfuck of rules violations, Coulibaly called a foul on Edu and waved off the goal. Fortunately, this egregious injustice occurred in a soccer game, so most Americans just went about their Friday afternoons blissfully ignorant instead of rioting, looting, turning over foreign-made cars, and flashing gang signs in the background of video news reports. Had such a call been made in game seven of the Lakers vs. Celtics series, whole swaths of Los Angeles or Boston would have been ablaze, the National Guard would have been called out, and a congressional committee would have been formed to decide if NBA Commissioner David Stern's severed head should be mounted on a pike. This was just a soccer game, however, so the few viewers who weren't secretly delighted foreign expatriates had to suppress their outrage and incredulity with things like serenity prayers, hair tearing, and pissy, jingoistic Web page comments. In the world soccer community, American outrage is a muffled cry in the wilderness, and probably with good reason. When a soccer player blatantly flops, feigns excruciating pain, and then pops up as if nothing happened, Americans are incredulous. They see flopping as an shameful, cowardly act of cheating, worthy of the harshest of penalties. The rest of the world simply sees it as part of the game. Similarly, bad officiating is seen in much the same light – as something that, like the weather, cannot be changed. This fundamental philosophical difference may be part of the reason soccer hasn't reached the same popularity in America as it has in the rest of the world, even though millions of American kids actually play soccer. Americans are always trying to improve things, weather included. We're not satisfied with a wistful sigh, a shoulder shrug, and an apologetic look of defeated resignation. Americans do not accept defeat and more importantly are not content with a tie. Americans want resolution – ideally a happy ending and not some morally confusing random moment of existence, beautiful though it may be. Maybe someday Americans will have enough influence to fix soccer. Ideally the fix won't come from Vegas mobsters, but from a sincere urge to do what is right. If you're one of those Americans who feel an urge to do what is right, think about skipping work this Friday and going down to Threadgill's World Headquarters at 8am for KGSR's Fan Fare Friday, a musical benefit for Family Eldercare. For the donation of a fan (not a soccer fan – something that generates breeze not noise) you can see sets by some truly amazing musicians: Quiet Company, Rocco DeLuca, BettySoo, Shinyribs, the Gourds, Kelly Willis, Mingo Fishtrap, Malford Milligan, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jon Dee Graham, and an unannounced "special guest." You may not be able to afford to buy a referee, but you can probably afford to buy a fan, right?
Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.