You’re right about your goalie, Tinker, and I can imagine the US soccer team becoming a world team in not a very far future. I read somewhere that in the US 16 million kids are training in the youth soccer leagues. Belgium has about 11 million inhabitants as a country. Sooner or later this has to show up in the figures.
30 to 40 years ago, soccer suddenly became popular with kids in this country. It sort of had something to do with a guy named Pele. My kids started playing at age 7 and 9 and I got involved in coaching. I knew diddely about soccer but I also did not appreciate that kids did not have all of the space to play unsupervised as I had growing up. There were a lot of others the same as me with the same, or less, experience. Most of us tried to keep it fun. I coached for about ten years and probably never actually able to show any of “my kids” a thing about skills. My favorite line from beginning to end was, “If you guys can’t play this game any better than I, you are in deep trouble.”
We were fortunate to have a few volunteers with some skills and between all of us, a few of our kids ended up playing in colleges. A couple ended up coaching professionally and one, who I had somehow had a hand in teaching him something, ended up playing in the Olympics and coached a couple of pro teams. Kids today are learning from a lot of guys and girls who’s first coaches knew no more than I had known.
Our highschool coach had grown up in Portugal. He often told me that when kids start playing by themselves and without all the supervision they would then start showing up on a world stage. My wife is German. On one of our visits to her family in a small village about 30 km south of Studtgart, I recall seeing a group of six teenagers playing keepaway with a soccer ball. They were kicking the ball around in a small area, never touching with their hands or letting the ball touch the ground. The circle they were playing in was probably 20 to 25 feet in diameter with very well marked perimeter. You see, they were playing in the center of a traffic rotary with heavy traffic from all four directions. I watched in amazement as those kids were acting as if totally unaware of the traffic. I watched for maybe ten minutes; the ball never stopped moving. The ball never went “out of bounds” and the boys were not only showing total control of the ball, but they were banging into each other as if out on a wide pitch.
I am sure those six young lads were not exceptions in the skills area. I told my friend about what I had seen. He told me that was not exceptional in Europe. When our kids can develpoe skills at such a level, we will become competitive with the Europeans and South Americans.
Hey, I am waiting for the girls turn in a couple of years. I had the most fun coaching them. I even had the good fortune to have coached against one of the best in the world. I “hated” her when I was coaching my girls. She absolutely killed us. One time, we held her to one goal and thought we were absolutely great. But later on, I got to cheer her as she played in more international games (they call it “caps”) than any other girl >>> or guy
<<< and she was one of the best for years. Her teams won a couple of Olympics as well as world Championships. When she was younger, she even played against some of my boys teams. She killed us then as well. She was quite successful against you Europeans and everybody else in the world as well. Our girls team is still taking no prisoners.