It’s time to give soccer a chance

Back in 2009, a famous grassroots movement came to fruition in the United States, and no, it’s not a political one.

Dan Wiersema, the president of the Austin, Texas chapter of the American Outlaws, a U.S. soccer supporter group, started the “Free Beer Movement” with the mission statement of “building American soccer one beer at a time.”

The way it works is by soccer fans sharing their passion with friends, family members or colleagues who know next to nothing about the sport but are willing to learn about the beautiful game. This involves taking the interested parties to a local watering hole to watch a match and buy them a beer, all while answering any questions the newbies have about soccer with the goal of perhaps creating new and future fans of the sport.

Since its inception, the movement has become popular with its own memorabilia line, and it even collaborated with Freetail Brewing Co. in San Antonio to create a special beer for the 2014 FIFA World Cup (“We Are Going to Braz-Ale”).

While it’s a great concept to raise the level of awareness Americans have on soccer, the Tribune Chronicle cannot advocate the consumption of alcohol, especially to those under the age of 21 who might read this, but soccer people in the Mahoning Valley could do something similar during this next month in order to grow the beautiful game in the area.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or don’t care about sports in general (which is OK, too), you’ve probably heard of the FIFA World Cup that is taking place in Brazil this summer. It started yesterday and will continue until July 13.

The world celebrates as soccer fans gather during this time, and even though this area isn’t the most soccer-crazy spot in the world, fans still come together to follow the action. Talking to Cardinal Mooney boys soccer coach Lou Cali Jr. and former Lakeview boys coach Nate Mailach, the players meet up to watch the matches, hoping to learn a thing or two from the world’s best players. Also, Mailach said the former Cleats on Elm Road in Warren used to open up early for the U.S. soccer team matches in the World Cup.

The fundamental problem with these scenarios is they involve already established followers of the sport. That does nothing to grow interest in the sport here.

This is where we can apply the lessons from the Free Beer Movement. Instead of hanging out with the usual soccer crowd, call up or text a friend who has shown previous interest in the sport and offer to buy a pizza, wings or whatever choice of unhealthy gastronomy you so desire to eat while sitting down and watching a match. Perhaps you can set up a viewing party at your place for any one of the U.S. team’s matches in the Group of Death (the first being against Ghana on Monday at 6 p.m.) and invite family members, friends or work colleagues to cheer for the Yanks because even if they don’t understand the game, they will at least root for the good ol’ U.S. of A in any endeavor.

At the end of the day, at least you gave it a shot , and who knows – maybe someone will join the ever-growing U.S. soccer community as a result.