Friday, July 18, 2014

Indoor Soccer Is Not Soccer

NOTE: Minorly edited for clarity.

Wednesday, as previously noted, I was one of the 31,237 people who descended on Miller Park to see Chivas Guadalajara take on Swansea City; the game ended in a 1-1 draw after Chivas converted a questionable penalty call in second-half stoppage time. It was a really attacking game, if you ask me, in more ways than one: there were plenty of scoring chances, and the game was very physical, with a double red card coming out at one point in the second half, which you really do not see often. It was a heavily pro-Chivas crowd, but aside from Chivas and the much smaller Swansea contingent, there were a lot of neutrals who came out supporting the idea that soccer was in Wisconsin, and wore the apparel of whatever team it was they did support. Just from my personal observation, I counted the following clubs and countries noted in addition to the two actually present:

Countries: Argentina, Belgium, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, England, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United States.

Clubs: AC Milan, Ajax, Arsenal, Aston Villa (me), Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Celtic, Chelsea, Chicago Fire, Club America, DC United, Dynamo Kiev, Everton, FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Leon, Leones Negros, Los Angeles Aztecs, Manchester City, Manchester United, Monarcos Morelia, Palmeiras, Paris Saint-Germain, Queretaro, Real Madrid, Seattle Sounders, Tigres, Torino, Tottenham Hotspur, Wigan Athletic.

Let me repeat: 31,237. That is better than last year's average home attendance of either club in their domestic league. I heard word at the game, albeit secondhand, that the stadium workers were already thinking about doing it again sometime because every aspect of the game from atmosphere to pitch condition to actual game went spectacularly (aside from not having a good way to tell who's who because there weren't any names on jerseys or programs or scoreboard display).

But do not tell this to Boro Sucevic, former head coach of the now-defunct Milwaukee Rampage, though. The Rampage was an indoor soccer team, as is the still-standing Milwaukee Wave. As Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote:

"What scares me is we might be known as a city that will support an event like this and then we move on," said Boro Sucevic, former coach of the defunct Milwaukee Rampage.
Sucevic says Milwaukee never really supported the Rampage or the indoor Milwaukee Wave, despite the fact that championships were won by high-level coaches such as Bob Gansler, Keith Tozer and himself.
A group led by Milwaukee native and former Chicago Fire general manager Peter Wilt failed to attract a Major League Soccer franchise about 10 years ago because there was no appetite to build a stadium.
For that reason, as well as a history of shaky support, the MLS is a pipe dream for Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. Even the second-tier North American Soccer League is not a realistic goal anytime soon without the kind of support the city has yet to demonstrate for pro soccer.
"The bottom line is that in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin, we did not do a good job of supporting our teams, from the Wave to the Rampage and the college teams," Sucevic said.
"Will this match make a difference for soccer here? In my heart I'd like to think so, but I've not seen the commitment."
Boro, let me tell you a thing. There's a reason nobody goes to Wave games, and there's a reason nobody went to Rampage games either. That reason is that indoor soccer is not real soccer, and American soccer fans have never gotten into indoor soccer. Ever. And they've gotten sophisticated enough to where they'd never accept it these days, or ever again. Indoor soccer is a thing where what is usually a six-a-side team plays on a shrunken field surrounded by the same kind of walls you'd have at a hockey game, complete with Plexiglass. There are four quarters instead of two halves. You play on turf, and because you play on turf, nobody is allowed to perform sliding tackles. You can score multipoint goals the same way you can make a three-point shot in basketball.

It is not administered by FIFA, but rather the World Minifootball Federation. As such, the Wave is ineligible to participate in any competition under the FIFA umbrella, nor are its players eligible to be called to national teams unless they go play for a team that actually plays soccer, which they would all love to do except that they've usually been rejected by enough lower-level soccer teams that they've been reduced to playing indoor ball just to keep their career going. These are people that are literally not good enough to play soccer playing a sport that is not soccer.

Did you know the first Minifootball World Cup is slated to be hosted by the United States next year? Neither did I. And I have no plans to attend either. Because I'm a SOCCER fan, and indoor soccer is not soccer. You will never see me at an indoor soccer game. Indoor soccer is a large part of the reason the US has taken so long to be taken seriously: because this is what the world figured we would do to soccer if we ever got hold of it. They were afraid we'd "Americanize" it. And hell, when MLS first came into being, we kind of did. We made the clock count down. We had shootouts to settle draws. We got laughed at. Loudly. We got laughed at so loudly that you will not see a serious American soccer fan caught dead at an indoor game for fear he'll give Europe another reason to marginalize us. Not only is it ignored, it is the enemy.

This is a recording of the Wave hosting the Missouri Comets (from Independence, just outside Kansas City) on March 2. You tell me if this is a thing you'd want to watch more often. (Skip to 24:40 to bypass the pregame show.)

I want real soccer. I don't want the jacked-up bastardization we had to make do with in the years between the NASL's death and MLS's inauguration that sees its national league collapse every couple years and the constituent teams scramble to form another league that will also collapse in a couple years. You know the league the Wave played in in that video? The one they were playing in on March 2? It's dead now. So are the other four leagues they've resided in since their 1984 inception; they've won their six titles in three of those five leagues. They've now migrated to league number six.

One of the Wave's former leagues was the Xtreme Soccer League, which had just one season in 2008-09. It had four teams in it, the others being in Chicago, Detroit and Newark. They had no playoff, because how the hell could you. Why should I have to put up with this kind of sport running this kind of league in order for me to eventually get to see the soccer I actually recognize as soccer? I'm not even talking MLS. Why should I be denied any professional soccer at all just because I refuse to accept a vastly inferior goat rodeo of a product that doesn't even play the same sport? We don't ask potential NFL cities to go support their arena football team. Why should soccer be any different?

I'll come see any two pro soccer teams you put in front of me, club or country. Any two on the planet you want to send to Milwaukee. Grab them out of the Mongolian league for all I care. Just make sure they're not bouncing the ball off of Plexiglass.


Anonymous said...

I was at miller park on thursday as well. You can add Dortmund to the list of jerseys (my bro has a old gotze jersey). I completely agree with you. Indoor soccer is just not the same. Milwaukee needs an outdoor team. I really think the excitement you saw at Miller could be real, especially if its OUR team. I know the MLS is far off (unfortunately) for Milwaukee but I feel like we could get a smaller stadium and an division 2 team here, and show that we will embrace this sport here. I personally know tons of people that would absolutely go crazy for an upper level outdoor team. Keep the movement alive!

Aaron Allermann said...

Best part of the video? Go to 56:30 and you'll see the camera and announcer miss a goal by the Wave because the camera's looking over at a coach on the sideline and the announcer picked that moment to start reading ad copy.