Last Thursday, The Athletic posted an interview with Lindsey Horan, which likely didn’t turn out for fans to buy her replica jersey.
Apparently, the co-captain of the pioneering US women’s national team thinks that “American soccer fans, most of them are not smart… They don’t know the game. They don’t understand it.” Admittedly, she threw them a bone and added: “[But] it keeps getting better.”
The Lyon midfielder, Champions League winner and 2019 World Cup champion, immersed in a conversation that deplores everything from the craziness of Horan’s teammates to the platitudes of TV pundits, argues that we should focus more on football – the football that, according to Horan, the fanbase doesn’t always understand.
Before considering the validity of Horan’s incendiary accusation, it is worth taking a moment to consider the American co-captain’s inquisitive nature. She shares captaincy duties with Alex Morgan, but wears the armband when the two are on the field together. The 29-year-old from Golden, Colorado, with 139 caps to her name, is on a voracious football diet. When asked to describe her ideal day without football, Horan said this would be it watching football. It’s easy to imagine Horan in a permanent state of football consumption, mired in detailed considerations, brows furrowed, calculating options to improve her game.
Horan’s unique path also reflects her worldly taste for the sport. In 2012, she left the traditional USWNT star development path of a college career in America, choosing to turn professional in Paris at the age of 18. After returning to collect NWSL trophies with the Portland Thorns, Horan has taken up a residency in Lyon, where she regularly serves as leader of Europe’s most decorated women’s team.
Horan’s experience playing the game on several continents is abundant; her eye for the game’s idiosyncrasies is refined.
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Within that context, you can see why Horan sits back and criticizes what she sees as a football culture that needs to get smart to get good, especially in the wake of last summer’s failure at the Women’s World Cup. But despite the respect Horan owes to knowledge and achievement, her light-hearted portrayal of American soccer fans doesn’t quite fit — especially in the context of women’s soccer.
Broadly speaking, it is often repeated as a banal truth that football is not popular in the United States. But that’s not entirely correct. While it’s not #1 — and won’t supplant the NFL as king any time soon — football is still remarkably popular and widely played in a country of more than 330 million people.
Whether measured by revenue, attendance, viewership, participation, or interest, football is easily one of the most popular sports in the United States, often beating out tennis, swimming, golf, and boxing. Often considered one of the ‘big five’ American sports – alongside American football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey – football occupies a unique place in that it is the only major American sport to feature the best men’s competition in the world (or even close to the top). league). not based in the US. This means that the most talented American men’s soccer players must seek careers abroad to reach the pinnacle of soccer.
Given the American consumer’s endemic desire to search best Regardless, many fans pledge their support to a variety of international competitions, often in addition to watching Major League Soccer.
On the women’s side, while the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League is certainly among the best in the world, U.S. women have also long sought the growth offered by playing abroad. Generations of stars from the four-time World Cup champions have played matches in Sweden, Australia, France, England and Germany.
Similarly, women’s soccer fans in the US consume a tapas menu of leagues and competitions, while still viewing their national league as an elite competition and their national team as one of the most competitive.
All of this is in addition to the fact that many American fans have come to appreciate the sport from an international perspective to begin with, either by discovering the game through relatives and parents born abroad or by traveling abroad. The cultural dexterity of American football fans is a standard facet rather than a rare anomaly. This often lends itself to a more refined understanding of the world’s most celebrated game.
Furthermore, the incredible success of the groundbreaking USWNT has spawned generations of American girls who grew up playing and loving it, generations who gained an advantage over their peers worldwide.
The legacy of 1970s legislation such as Title IX, which accelerated development at the collegiate level, codified playing time for ambitious young Americans at a time when professional women’s soccer had recently been illegal in other countries. This paid off in the 1990s, when the US lifted two of the first three World Cup trophies.
The cultural legacy of the affectionately known ’99ers (think Brandi Chastain taking off her shirt after scoring the winning penalty against China to claim the US’s second FIFA title) further accelerated playing interest to the extent that young girls years in America were probably more likely to grow up with a ball at their feet than their peers in other countries.
Over the years, fans of the USWNT have been spoiled and treated to the most successful women’s team on the international stage. It’s true that conditioning and athleticism once set the team apart, but it would be misleading to diminish the technical skills and football IQ of anyone from Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly to Tobin Heath, Sam Mewis or Crystal Dunn . The appreciation for that deadly combination of intelligence and mentality, athleticism and skill has increased.
Given the fanbase’s exposure to high-stakes soccer, and given the country’s top talent performing at its peak, dedicated American soccer fans knew what a cohesive, World Cup-winning team looked like. And it is for that reason that many knew, from their first kick of the ball in New Zealand, and without needing the help of experts, that last summer’s team simply didn’t have it.
There are merits to be made for honestly confronting the problems in US women’s soccer: development pathways, tactical flexibility and training for coaches all need to be assessed. But it is not entirely accurate to characterize supporters from the United States as lacking sophistication. Especially considering her status as America’s captain, Horan’s comments were careless and ill-conceived.