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Score Big, U.S.--Join the Soccer Club

July 03, 2002|RANAN R. LURIE | Ranan R. Lurie is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a syndicated columnist and political cartoonist.

I have lived exactly half my life in these United States of America. The other part was spent in Canada, Britain, Israel, Germany and Japan. As such, I can say with more authority than most that this country is the finest place a person can choose to live.

However, if soccer were to become part of the American national heritage, it would be an even better place.

We saw, over the last month, hundreds of millions of people around the world drunk with excitement while following the international soccer matches played in Japan and South Korea.

All those perspiring faces looked alike to me. Whether the fans were Norwegian or Ghanaian, German or Chinese, boy or girl, tall or short, Muslim or Catholic, black, brown, yellow or white, they all had that same expression of enthusiasm developed from watching soccer, the great equalizer.

Common sense dictates that if something can intrigue so many different people, it must be worth looking into. So why not adopt it as our national sport? Let's analyze the benefits:

* It's wonderful for business. Think of the opportunities: soccer cards of the new heroes, increased hot dog and T-shirt sales, the parades, the halls of fame, the movies, the jobs created for stadium builders, the boost to tourism (traveling to Brazil to watch the game, having Brazilians come over to collect their trophies).

* Americans joining the rest of civilization.

* Americans finally having a common language with the rest of the world.

* America buying the Brazilian team, issuing its members green cards and thus beating every other soccer team in the world.

Seriously speaking, we need to find as many common denominators as we can with the world. The more mutual habits, traditions, sports and interests we can share with other people around the world, the fewer reasons for disputes. I claim from personal knowledge that the average Japanese, German or Brit loves and admires the United States and what it stands for. Yes, we do suffer from well-deserved jealousy that is cemented by habits that are so American (among them football and baseball, which we have never managed to market to the rest of the world). Why?

The United States is like a wonderful giant cruise ship that has everything. When it reaches, for instance, the port of Naples, no one bothers to get off because the stores on Deck 14 are better.

We need to puncture the great bubble that surrounds us. A well-aimed soccer ball can penetrate it and help do the job. But let's be careful not to win too much.

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