US Congress Kicks FIFA World Cup Into Touch

Updated: 16 June 2014 12:36 IST

American sports such as basketball, baseball and that other football -- where players wear helmets and use their hands -- dominate in a nation that has yet to embrace what Brazilians call "jogo bonito," the beautiful game.

America football

The US national team at one of its training sessions in Brazil.

© AFP

Despite one of their own nearly becoming a pro soccer star, few US lawmakers will join the rest of humanity and drop everything to watch the World Cup.

American sports such as basketball, baseball and that other football -- where players wear helmets and use their hands -- dominate in a nation that has yet to embrace what Brazilians call "jogo bonito," the beautiful game.

"I have to admit I'm way behind on that," Senator Bob Casey told AFP.

Asked if there was Capitol Hill interest in the tournament, Senator Ron Johnson didn't miss a beat: "Not on my part."

Senator Dick Durbin will watch, "as long as they don't have those zoyzooellas moaning in the background," he said, garbling the vuvuzela horns that South African supporters blew in 2010.

Even Florida's Senator Marco Rubio, unfazed about jeopardizing his standing with soccer-mad Hispanic constituents, said the World Cup was on the back burner for him until the basketball season ends.

"I'm probably following the NBA finals a little bit more closely right now," Rubio said, noting how his Miami Heat are locked in a bruising championship battle with the San Antonio Spurs.

That helps explain the "meh" reaction many in Congress have to soccer, still seen as an international game that American kids play before they grow up.

It would be politically foolhardy to ignore constituents' local sporting fanaticism. That means a Missouri congressman cheers for the St. Louis Cardinals, a Maryland senator follows the Super Bowl contender Baltimore Ravens.

Many lawmakers of course insisted they will watch the American World Cup matches, including Senator Kelly Ayotte.

"My nine-year-old is a soccer player and she's very excited," Ayotte said.  "But I haven't done any Senate Panini trades," she snickered, referring to the swappable World Cup stickers just beginning to catch on here.

In a casual poll of 20 senators, about a third exhibited genuine tournament interest.

That leaves Senator Chris Murphy -- "My productivity is going to greatly decline" -- and freshman Representative Eric Swalwell to carry the World Cup torch in Congress.

Swalwell, 33, played as a Division 1 goalkeeper for Campbell University. "I thought I was much better than I probably was," Swalwell said. Nevertheless, he was eyeing a possible stint at a second-tier club in Europe, but his dream was shattered when he broke both thumbs, forcing him into Plan B.

"The best athletes will play in the World Cup, the ones who get injured go to Congress," Swalwell quipped. He and others play in charity matches, but for many lawmakers, that's as far as it goes with soccer.

"We're not there yet," he said. Swalwell worries votes will be scheduled during Monday's US opener against Ghana at 6:00 pm (2200 GMT), the time Congress often has its first votes of the week.

"It better be on in the cloakroom," he said.

Topics : Football
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