Michael: The game on TV became the second most emotional soccer (called football or futbol in almost every other country of the world than the USA) match I have watched in my life. The first was my son’s high school team playing for the regional trophy. The way the players came together and supported each other was amazing. His school had never won regionals in 13 years of play. The sport was not high on the list of athletic events the school liked to spend money on. The boys were up against the number three team in the State. My son had the position of goalkeeper and the match went into a shoot out. They won.
This time my excitement was the USA versus Colombia in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup played in Canada. I am a U.S. citizen but I live in Colombia and my wife is Colombian.
Like my son’s game, this was another David versus Goliath thing. Sports bookies gave the USA a 95% chance of success. Colombia is rated in the high 20’s in the world while USA is #2. In looking at the players the Americans stood a head higher than their competitors. One Twitter user stated, “USA vs Colombia is the big juiced up prizefighter going against the back-ally brawler.”
Then there is the support thing. Without doubt the American Women’s team has more money and support than the Colombian ladies. They male dominated culture of Colombia gives little to women who wish to pursue soccer. The press and people do not show support. A little qualifying match for the men in the COPA Cup has a sea of Colombian yellow jerseys everywhere in the cities. However, I could not find one single person wearing it for the Women’s World Cup knockout round. In fact Colombia has no league play for women. A multitude of reporters plus TV crews showed up to cover the Colombian men’s COPA, but only three reporters made it to Canada for the women.
Some of the female Colombian players get experience playing for Universities in the USA. Colombia does not support women’s university teams. Catalina Perez is at the University of Miami. Stephany Castaño attends Graceland University in Iowa.
Assistant coach at that university and fellow Colombian, Grisela Arrieta, helped get Perez there. Arrieta’s father, like many Colombian men, did not want his daughter to play the game. But she followed her passion. A good article on espnW explains more about the trouble for Colombian women in playing soccer.
In a Cinderella upset the Colombian team already defeated the top-ranked French crew 2-0. Going into the match with the USA they were without their goalkeeper, Sandra Sepulveda. She was out after previously receiving two yellow cards . Catalina Perez filled the spot having many saves in the first half and holding the USA scoreless. In the meantime the American team’s defense did a good job at keeping their goaltender, 33 year-old professional soccer player, Hope Solo, from have to work much.
The cultural difference in play came into evidence during that time. The USA picked up two yellow cards in the first half. Many Twitter users thought they were unfair calls by the French referee. Americans play sports aggressively compared to many other countries. The French, Colombians and others work towards execution and talent. So, rough play is not as tolerated in soccer as it is in even what most Americans use in basketball. Even the U.S. coach in an interview about the American’s style of play said the basic objective was to get the ball into the net no matter what.
Graciela: It was obvious that my fellow countrywomen needed more experience in making goals. They are excellent at play and ball control, but they could learn something from the Americans in terms of objective.
Michael: What I noticed from Twitter comments is how uneducated Americans often are when it comes to the South American country. Many spelled the name of the country incorrectly Then others called it a Communist country. Even the stupid comment made by one that “The only thing Colombia should be better at than US is cocaine distribution,” makes no sense. Americans are the number one consumer of the product per capita in the world. They take four times the amount that the country in second place consumes. And it is the U.S. citizens doing the final distribution. Not to mention the drug has nothing to do with the game.
But I noticed Twitter yellow yellers shutting up in the first few minutes of the second half when goalkeeper Perez received a red card. I have probably watched the slow motion replay of the incident 20 times and believe it was a bad call. But I would not want to be in the ref’s cleats making that decision in real time.
Graciela: I do not know. Colombia previously beat France and it was a female French referee.
Michael: “I don’t care what newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right,” is a quote attributed to many different people. By the same token correct pronunciation of a person’s name is important. I watched the match on Direct TV with an English speaking announcer. His mispronunciation of many of the Colombian player’s names had me cringing.
I am glad to see my country win and advance. My eyes will be glued to the tube for the remainder of the matches and look forward to the women’s soccer team of the United States being world champions.
The Colombian ladies played with more tenacity and heart than I have see since my son’s game. But not always will such play overcome money and support. Juan Jose Correa, one of the few Colombian males I found following the matches of his country’s female team told me, “In the United States there are real fans that follow each game of the semi-professional leagues, in Colombia that does not exist, but thanks to these world cup achievements things will start to change.” Even the Bogotá newspaper, El Tiempo, stated that the women have the talent but not the support.
I feel that if the Colombia government and Colombian people can back off some on the machoism and support their women players the team will beome a world force to be reckoned with in soccer.