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Journalism of Courage

FIFA World Cup 2022 and some good-natured banter: Sorry Joe Biden, football won over soccer

No, it’s not soccer. But despite the debate, the Twitter exchange between US president, Dutch PM was refreshing for its lack of rancour

At first glance, it may seem like Biden has a point. Yet, voetbal is just a translation.
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America, it is probably easy for Americans to forget, is not the centre of the world. In almost any other country on the planet, the sport that involves kicking a ball is called — obviously and intuitively — football. Not so in the US. There, football involves picking up the ball and running with it, and there appears to be a lot of violence involved as well. “Soccer”, of course, is a pure Americanism and is unlikely to provide succour to fans of football and appreciators of semantic clarity. The online banter — good-natured and well-meaning — about soccer vs football between US President Joe Biden and Dutch Prime Minister Dutch Rutte last weekend made it clear, once again, what the game involving players’ feet and a ball should be called.

“It’s called soccer,” said Biden in a video on Twitter wishing the US national team luck before their knockout game against the Netherlands. Rutte, though, waited to get his quip in till after the Dutch routed the Americans — the final scorecard read 3-1. “Sorry, Joe, football won,” he said. The American, though, got the last word in: “Strictly speaking, shouldn’t it be ‘voetbal’? Kidding aside: congrats to your team and country, Mark.”

At first glance, it may seem like Biden has a point. Yet, voetbal is just a translation. “Soccer” is an aberration. But, as the US president would put it, kidding aside, it was good too see a conversational game on social media played out with good humour, without rancour. Besides, as long as there is sublime movement on the pitch and national pride without othering, does the name of the sport really matter? Some will say, in the spirit of sportsmanship, that there is no right answer. They are wrong, of course. Sorry Joe, football won.

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First published on: 06-12-2022 at 06:30 IST
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