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Ship's Log, Feb. 10: The language of soccer

Soccer is at its best when it is expressed as the language of the places where it is played.

Last Updated
4 min read
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Football, soccer, whatever you choose to call the game we all love, is a wonderful little piece of magic. People often talk about the “language of the game,” that allows for connections across cultural or actual language barriers. Football, as both a game and a culture, has more similarities to language than just being a way for people to connect and find common ground. It’s shaped by the places where it’s found, the demographics and geography of a region change how the game is expressed. From tactics and techniques on the field to the ways that fans celebrate, commiserate, and just generally show their support.

With AFCON and the Asian Cup both playing their respective finals this weekend after both tournaments were filled with drama and great play, all celebrated by anyone and everyone who watched, that sense of place in the game feels particularly poignant. Those two tournaments cause no small amount of frustration among fans and front offices in Europe as players leave their club teams to compete in the biggest tournaments their home regions have to offer. That unfairly and unfortunately colors the perspective for those who haven’t actually been exposed to two of the best competitions in the game. Maybe they’re not the highest quality or most polished events available, but they are beautifully and unabashedly African and Asian, and they are all the better for it.

That is the joy and power of embracing where you’re from and what that represents. Now that MLS teams are starting to hold their own a bit more in continental competitions, Americans and Canadians have started to embrace all that is Concacaf a little bit more. Jon Arnold’s Get CONCACAFed newsletter has helped those less familiar to celebrate all that deserves to be celebrated about our weird little corner of the world’s game. Our Champions Cup (née League) provides us with delights like one of the continent’s biggest clubs in Tigres making the trek out to Vancouver Island to face the Whitecaps in a 6,000-seat stadium for a humdinger of a 1-1, and Real Estelí claiming their first-ever win against Mexican opponents as they beat Club America 2-1.

Football is made better – really its best – when it’s a true expression of where it’s played. That’s what’s great about clubs embracing their homes. The Seattle Sounders bringing the heritage of the city to the front with kit designs like the Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Lee kits, or USL 2 teams Ballard FC and West Seattle Junction FC partnering with iconic local companies – Dick’s Drive-In and Easy Street Records – to create identities in the lower leagues of football that are truly Seattle. We’re all our best when we truly embrace who we are, whether that’s as individuals, clubs, communities or confederations.

– Tim

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