My best friend’s husband recently started a co-ed rec soccer team. I joined. We’re on turf every Wednesday. Win or lose, watching or playing — everyone has a great time. I always think to myself, “Dude. Soccer rocks.” The sport is also a global phenomenon that cuts across political, language and cultural barriers.
That’s why I’m excited to take my dad to CenturyLink Stadium tonight to see the U.S. men’s team face Panama in a World Cup qualifier match. I don’t think he has been on the sidelines of any sporting event since my weekend soccer games in middle school. Tuesday’s game will mark his first time watching live professional soccer since he arrived in the United States in 1979. Back in his native Vietnam, soccer is the national pastime. (My soccer-crazed grandfather keeps a television set in his rural farmhouse outside Ho Chi Minh City for the sole purpose of watching games.) When my parents were both teachers in Saigon, they lived right across from Cong Hoa Stadium, renamed Thong Nhat Stadium after the fall of Saigon. They became regular spectators of soccer games at the 25,000-capacity venue. Throughout the 1970s, friends and family members would meet at their apartment before walking over to the field to cheer on visiting teams. Another time, my dad took students from his school to a sister school in Da Lat to play in a soccer tournament. It was a big deal for the kids. He refereed a match between the teachers. His voice gets excited and his face really lights up when he recalls those memories.
As The Seattle Times’ Joel Petterson writes in this charming report, the last time U.S. Soccer made an appearance in the Emerald City, the year was 1976, the Kingdome was still around and the national league had just hired its very first full-time coach. The Americans were the underdogs, but they won that game, 2-0.
Thirty-seven years later, the U.S. men’s team is on a winning streak, my parents live in Olympia and World Cup soccer is paying a rare visit to Seattle.
I can’t wait to sit in the stands with my dad and at least 37,000 other spectators. Seeing the home team compete for national pride and a shot at the 2014 World Cup will be a special experience for us both. He’ll get re-acquainted with a game that’s familiar to him. I’ll be there to (hopefully) help him chant, “Goaaaaal, USA!”
The game kicks off at 7:08 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.