Mr. Matt Matt. Read more about U.S. Soccer trying not to suck at suckyball.wordpress.com.
When I first started watching soccer it took me about five months to get a grasp on why certain players were celebrated more than others. American sports had brainwashed me so much that the only way I could relate to soccer players was to compare them with figures and stories I was already well familiar with. So as a gift to new American soccer fans I present this quick cheatsheet for people new to the game. This way you’ll be a little more seasoned when soccer conversation comes up and you won’t feel like the odd man out.
Trust me my American friend, don’t feel threatened when soccer comes up in conversation because the media stories will be inevitable from now. You can still watch your beloved ESPN, but you’ll find that soccer coverage will roll across the screen more than usual and you’ll be obligated to listen to it.
Let’s start with the easy comparison:
Pele = Michael Jordan. This is just basic logic. If Michael Jordan is the greatest player in the history of basketball, and Brazil has won the most world cups with Pele at the helm … and since Pele is the greatest Brazilian player ever ….. he is the greatest player in the history of soccer. When people talk about Pele they are talking about the man who won three world cups. His last world cup victory was on a loaded team considered by many people to be the greatest of all time (like Jordan’s bulls).
David Beckham = Kobe Bryant. This is a little trickier to explain but if we look at the facts we’ll see some similarities. Both of them began their careers very young and their insane drive for success brought them championships and titles on already celebrated teams. And although Kobe never had a movie named after him, if you were to paste together all the commercials he’s done recently you’d have probably over an hour and a half of film. And did you notice they both currently play in Los Angeles too (and also changed their numbers to reference Michael Jordan)?
Kobe dated a singer too but he was very young and didn’t marry her like Beckham did. If anything these two represent players who succeed on major teams for very long stretches of time, not easy today in sports. And now Kobe might play for a team in Italy? Doesn’t that remind you of something Beckham did?
Diego Maradona = The NFL’s Lawrence Taylor. This might be a little difficult to follow for both NFL fans and soccer fans but bear with me. Both of these players had addictions with cocaine but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They are both known for having a passionate love with the game they played and giving everything they possibly could to succeed. When Maradona spoke of soccer he spoke of it as a religion, something that God had made as a path out for him. For Lawrence Taylor crushing the quarterback was his end-all be-all, it was the only reason he breathed and stepped on the field. Taylor frightened so many opposing teams. One time right before the snap he looked at the poor player meant to guard him and just laughed in his face (before dismantling him).
For soccer fans who don’t know LT, he helped the NY Giants to their championship by crushing quarterbacks into the ground with superhuman strength. For NFL fans who don’t know Diego Maradona, he is the player who put his national team on his back and upset country after country to receive the World Cup trophy. Also, Maradona played so well that an announcer even cried when describing one of his goals (conversely, Taylor would make his opponents weep from pain). When I think of these players I think of their God-given gifts to play at unseen levels and massive ammounts of cocaine usage.
Thierry Henry = Tom Brady. Every NFL fan knows the insane level of adoration and worship between a typical Patriot fan and quarterback Tom Brady. Well Arsenal fans acted the exact same way when Henry played for them. I bring these two players up just because they guided their teams through undefeated seasons that their fans will remember for decades. Brady and Henry have their records and titles, but ultimately Henry and Brady were the golden boys of their leagues for accomplishing a rare feat.
Christiano Ronaldo = Alex Rodriguez and Lebron James. Young, rich and not known for understanding the plight of the common man.
Wayne Rooney = Derek Jeter. I didn’t even want to bring this comparison up but since you, the new fan, will hear about Rooney over and over again I’ll have to educate you. Both of these players play on massively marketed sports teams that reach far across the globe. Since both of them are star players on the two super teams, and both of them grew up surrounded by their teams (Jeter in New Jersey, Rooney in central England) then a comparison had to be made. Manchester United fans love Rooney to bloody hell and Yankee fans love Derek Jeter. Fugghetaboutit.
Clint Dempsey = Steve Nash from the NBA. A talented, skilled, hard-working team player to emulate and respect. But both of them were born in the wrong country and might not ever win championships. Being a Canadian isn’t that bad for Steve Nash, but it’s about the same as Dempsey being American (Canadians aren’t known for basketball stars, Europeans haven’t got a clue why Americans don’t play better soccer). All things aside both of these players, despite coming in from foreign lands, add a lot more to the game in the long run.
Ronaldhino = Magic Johnson. This is a difficult comparison to make but I’m making it based on the fact that their passing highlights were sometimes more visually striking than when they actually scored. In addition, Ronaldhino was also known for staying out at nights and partying more than one person could possible handle, something Magic might know a thing or two about. And although Magic Johnson was revered for being a great passer on a championship team, Ronaldhino was considered one of the best ball handlers on a championship team that was already stacked with passing talent (ie the 2002 Brazilian national team). This is the reason why I make the comparison.