TIME Sports

I Was a Psychotic Soccer Mom

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Rana Faure—Getty Images

Had I grown up in a post-Title IX world, I might have discovered that I was a jock—and prone to sports zealotry

I grew up in Minnesota in the 1960s and ’70s, before the passage of Title IX—the education amendment that provides for gender equity in athletics.

Had I grown up in my daughter’s world, in California over the last 20 years, I might have recognized that I was an athlete. Instead, the experience of raising my daughter in the more open, post-Title IX world of organized sports has helped me understand that I really was a jock all along—and prone to sports zealotry.

I fulfilled my high school P.E. requirement with badminton and bowling. Outside school, I ran, biked, rode horses and worked at a stable. I learned to vault on and off a galloping horse, ride backward or standing upright on the saddle, and leap from one horse to another at a full run.

But I didn’t play team sports, since little was offered for girls outside school. And I never thought of myself as an athlete.

In the early 1990s, I moved to L.A. and had my first child. When Zoe was about 7, she asked if she could play soccer. I was unaware that a whole industry of youth sports had sprung up: American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO), Little League, YMCA basketball.

A year later, I signed Zoe up for AYSO soccer. She took to it like a little Mia Hamm to a World Cup penalty kick. She went straight to the All-Stars Under 10 team. I went more or less straight to becoming a fanatical fan.

On the morning of Zoe’s first all-star tournament, we planned to leave at 5:30 a.m. to arrive at the field by 7 a.m. When I opened my eyes at 6:05 a.m., I lay still for a moment, processing my disbelief. Late. Then the adrenaline kicked in, and I flew.

I leapt from bed, sprinted down the hall, and shook my daughter from sleep before darting to the kitchen to fling things into the cooler. Then I saw my husband’s lumbering down the dark corridor. “What are you doing?” he asked. “It’s 1 a.m.!”

I’d read the digital clock wrong.

Zoe climbed back under the covers, fully dressed in her uniform, shin guards and all, and went back to sleep.

We made it to that game on time, of course. But I’d officially earned the title of Psychotic Soccer Mom.

Of course, there are good and bad psycho soccer moms. The good ones cheer on their kids, though often to excess. The bad ones do, too, but they also jeer at players and yell at the referees. Both can be loud and OCD, with noisemakers and spreadsheets of game times. And both live vicariously through their kids, the good soccer moms with wonder and hopeful expectation, the bad ones with jealousy and dogged determination.

I hope I’ve been one of the good ones. I’ve given years of my life to being a soccer mom, and in the process have deepened my relationship with my daughter, who is now 21, in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

The truth is, my daughter’s engagement with sports has rocked my world. Her experience has been so rich with lessons in self-discipline, teamwork, courage and grit. I’ve seen her give her all to the game in driving sleet and hail, and in scorching desert sun. She has embraced what it means to be strong, fierce and unwilling to accept defeat.

There are other ways to learn these lessons, but not so many or often for girls as for boys. We expect our boys, in the course of their daily lives, to be rough and tumble, to get the wind knocked out of them and get up again. But for girls, organized sports have provided the best arena to test their mettle.

I have a son, too, and have spent countless, amped-up hours at his games. But I feel more like a visitor than an inhabitant in his world. Mostly, I think, because I am startled by a recognition of my daughter’s experience as one I, too, might have had 40 years earlier.

I think I have gleaned some of the same lessons over the years, of endurance, strength and tenacity. But I have done so by other means, and over a longer arc of time. I would have loved learning them, like my daughter, on the soccer field.

Now that it’s August, AYSO soccer season is starting up again. I’ll wander up to the park and enjoy the little-girl mayhem of the Red Hot Tinkerbells team, 6 year olds charging down the field toward the wrong goal. And I’ll wait, impatiently, until next summer, when the Women’s World Cup gets underway in Canada. I’ll be there. And though she’s abandoned her Mia Hamm aspirations to pursue a career in science, maybe Zoe will, too.

Claire Peeps is the director of the Durfee Foundation and a longtime resident of Los Angeles. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME robin williams

Watch Robin Williams Explain Sports

Robin Williams at the Friars Roast for Whoopi Goldberg at the Hilton Hotel in New York City on October 7, 1993.
Robin Williams at the Friars Roast for Whoopi Goldberg at the Hilton Hotel in New York City on October 7, 1993. Walter McBride—Corbis

The late comic went on memorable riffs about golf, baseball, and other games

No one tackled the absurdity of sports quite like Robin Williams. Here’s the comic legend riffing on golf, baseball and other games during his stand-up routines.

(Warning: Lots of NSFW stuff here).

Golf

Oh, so that’s why the shots are called strokes.

The Winter Olympics

Put on a glove, man.

Football

What happens when Tom Landry coaches ballet, and a choreographer coaches football?

Soccer

Williams’ take on flopping and yellow cards, with a detour to Lance Armstrong — pre-PED scandal — and hockey.

Baseball

Baseball had a cocaine problem in the 1980s, and the third-base coach wasn’t helping.

TIME celebrity

Jason Sudeikis Returns as Awful American Soccer Coach Ted Lasso

And he's as ignorant as ever

+ READ ARTICLE

Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis has reprised a character who we first met last summer: Ted Lasso, the incompetent American soccer coach hired to manage Tottenham Hotspur.

Well, Lasso was fired because he was terrible and didn’t understand the rules of British football at all. But because the Premier League is returning to NBC this month, the network decided to revive the hilariously ignorant, disrespectful, mustachioed character.

This time, though, he’s coaching a youth soccer team and showing off his newfound love of English culture. In fact, he’s even taken a cue from cities with places like Chinatown and Little Italy and turned his entire apartment into Teeny-Tiny England.

TIME Sports

Cristiano Ronaldo Stars in Truly Bizarre Japanese Commercial for a Facial Fitness Tool

Guaranteed to make your smile look just like his!

+ READ ARTICLE

When Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t showing off his well-toned muscles after winning a soccer game, he’s showing off a gadget meant to help people boast his winning smile.

The Portuguese footballer recently appeared in a Japanese advertisement for an unusual little product called Pao Facial Fitness. It requires users to bite down on a winged contraption and then vigorously nod their heads in an attempt to build up cheek strength. Based on the commercial, it seems that users are also encouraged to dance around.

If you don’t want to buy one of these, don’t worry: just watching the video is likely to make you smile so hard that you’ll get a facial workout for free!

TIME ebola

Soccer on Hold in Liberia as the Fight Against Ebola Continues

Ebola in Liberia
A nurse disinfects the waiting area for visitors at the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, on July 28, 2014 Ahmed Jallanzo—EPA

A major tournament has been postponed as West African countries struggle to contain the deadly disease

Correction appended July 30, 9:26am ET

Liberia halted all soccer activity Tuesday in the effort to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, which has killed hundreds in West Africa as the region scrambles to stop the worst outbreak on record.

“We have decided to suspend all football activity while we help the government combat the deadly Ebola disease,” said Liberian Football Association secretary general Alphonso Armeh. “We also want to use this time to create awareness. In its initial stages, we didn’t give this the attention it needed.”

The President’s Cup, scheduled for August, has been postponed and training has been canceled, Bloomberg reports. The soccer ban could be lifted in time for league play in October.

More than 670 people in three West African countries, including more than 129 in Liberia, have been killed in the outbreak. Nigeria recently had to evacuate and quarantine a hospital after a patient died of Ebola in the first reported case to reach the densely populated city of Lagos.

On Sunday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf shut overland border crossings into and out of the country.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the capital of Nigeria. It is Abuja.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Spain

Lionel Messi Faces Messy Tax-Fraud Allegations

The soccer star and his father allegedly owe $5.3 million in unpaid taxes to Spain

+ READ ARTICLE

Lionel Messi, the highest-paid soccer player in the world, might be in some serious financial trouble.

Messi and his father have been accused of tax fraud in Spain, and if they — in an unlikely case — are convicted, the pair could face up to six years in prison and nearly $32 million in fines.

MONEY Sports

WATCH: Lionel Messi’s Messy Tax Situation

Global soccer star Lionel Messi and his father are facing charges of tax fraud in Spain.

TIME World Cup

FIFA Rejects Calls to Strip Russia of World Cup

(ZURICH) — FIFA rejected calls to move the 2018 World Cup from Russia, saying the tournament “can achieve positive change.”

Russia’s alleged involvement in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last week prompted calls from some lawmakers in Germany to review the country’s hosting rights.

On Friday, FIFA issued a statement saying it “deplores any form of violence” and questioning the purpose of relocating the sport’s showcase tournament.

“History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems,” FIFA said, adding that global attention on the World Cup “can be a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments.”

The conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatist rebels escalated days after the World Cup ended in Brazil.

On July 13 in Rio de Janeiro, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a World Cup hosting handover ceremony with Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff. Both then sat next to FIFA President Sepp Blatter to watch the final at the Maracana Stadium, won by Germany.

FIFA, which has Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on its executive committee, said a World Cup in the country “can be a force for good.”

“FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia,” the governing body said.

Blatter already rejected calls to strip Russia of the tournament after it annexed the Crimea this year.

“The World Cup has been given and voted to Russia and we are going forward with our work,” Blatter said in March.

In a separate statement Friday, Mutko said a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics had been a mistake.

“So there’s no sense in reacting to politicians trying to make names for themselves,” Mutko was quoted saying by Russian news agency R-Sport. “We’re preparing in a calm way, building facilities, getting ready for the World Cup.”

Russia has announced a $20 billion budget for building and renovating 12 stadiums, and other construction projects, for the first World Cup in Eastern Europe.

“FIFA has stated many times that sport should be outside politics,” Mutko said. “Hosting an event like this, we’re doing it for athletes from all over the world, for footballers, for the fans.”

TIME Soccer

Why European Soccer Teams See Gold in America

Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy
Robbie Keane #7 of the Los Angeles Galaxy greets Wayne Rooney #10 of Manchester United drurning prematch ceremonies at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014 in Pasadena, California. Stephen Dunn—Getty Images

There's money to be made in the New World

The summer of soccer isn’t over yet. Following in the footsteps of nearly rabid fan interest in the United States Men’s National Team during the World Cup, and record numbers of American viewers for the tournament, some of Europe’s best teams have landed here in search of pre-season competition — and pre-season earnings on ticket and merchandise sales.

Manchester United is one of eight teams that will contest the Guinness International Champions Cup against the likes of Inter Milan, A.C. Milan, AS Roma, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Olympiacos. The tournament features a tasty matchup between Man U and Real Madrid on August 2 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan — a.k.a. “The Big House” – that will break the U.S. attendance record for a soccer match in the U.S., given that all 109,901 seats have already been sold. Matches will also take place in Denver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City, among other cities. The championship games will be played in Miami on August 4.

United warmed up for the tournament by tearing apart Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, 7-0, in a friendly at the Rose Bowl Stadium before a crowd of 86,432. This was not a trip that Man U’s new coach Louis van Gaal, even wanted to make. “But the tour was already arranged, so I have to adapt, I shall adapt,” he said. Better get used to it, Louie. Man U’s American owners, the Glazer family, like to bring their assets home for the locals to see.

Big teams have been making periodic visits to the States for decades, although the scale and scope of this year’s visitors is nearly unprecedented. In the past, it’s been more about reconnecting with immigrant fan bases. Napoli and Santos, with Pele, played to nearly 50,000 in Yankee Stadium in 1968, with the European team tapping into a huge base of southern Italians in the metro New York area.

But as the global game, and its glam teams, have become more visible in the U.S. via weekly television exposure, America has become a destination of choice for brand building and income generation. Why train at home or in Switzerland and play friendlies against local clubs when you can get North American fans to pay your team a premium for getting in shape? Top tickets for these games are as much as $250.

In the case of one of MLS’s newest franchises, New York City F.C., ownership, rivalry and brand building interests come home to Yankee Stadium, where Liverpool meets Manchester City on July 30. NYCFC is jointly owned by the Yankees and Man City, while Liverpool is owned by Fenway Sports Group, the same outfit, controlled by John Henry, that owns the Boston Red Sox. Can’t you just smell the hatred brewing?

Liverpool started its tour with a 1-0 loss in sold-out Fenway Park to another American-owned club, A.S. Roma, which is spending its third consecutive summer in the States with a two-week, four-match schedule. Arsenal, which plays a friendly against the MLS’ New York Red Bulls in Harrison, N.J. on August 2, is partly owned by American Stan Kroenke. And Arsenal knows that, as a global brand, it needs to build its fan base in the U.S. Indeed, Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis is no stranger to these shores, having served as deputy commissioner of the MLS before heading to London.

“I can tell you something I’m completely convinced of ,” noted Gunners boss Arsene Wenger on the team’s web site, “before people didn’t know who you were, but now every American guy I met knows Arsenal, knows England and knows the Premier League.” No reason then not to sell a piece of it to them.

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