USA 94 Memories

In the summer of 1994 I attended a handful of World Cup matches at Stanford Stadium in San Francisco. The whole experience was very surreal, not least because England themselves weren’t playing. One of the things I found most interesting was how the US public were taking to our national sport. There was a genuine curiosity as they came in their thousands to see what all the fuss was about. During one of the games I attended, I forget which; I overheard the following exchange between two friends, let’s call them A and B. It remains one of my favorite memories of the tournament.

  • A:
    • So what are the rules?
    • Like what’s the minimum I need to know?
  • B:
    • Well you can use most parts of your body to control the ball
    • But you can’t pick it up or use your hands
  • A:
    • Why not?
  • B:
    • Because that would be a foul
    • The opposition would get a free kick
  • A:
    • So what? It’s like a turnover?
  • B:
    • Ermm… yeah kind of
  • A:
    • And these guys just need to score on these other guys, right?
  • B:
    • Pretty much
  • A:
    • Ok, cool

[time passes]

  • A:
    • Hey! wait a minute…
    • That guy just picked it up!
  • B:
    • That’s ok he’s the goalkeeper
  • A:
    • But you said no one could use their hands
  • B:
    • Well no one apart from the goalkeeper
  • A:
    • So why doesn’t he just run with it
  • B:
    • Because he can’t go any further than the edge of his box
  • A:
    • His box?
  • B:
    • Ermm, ok, so… he can’t travel more than 18 yards
    • That’s his outfield limit
  • A:
    • Ahhhh ok I get it…
    • But he can pick the ball up right?
  • B:
    • Yeah
  • A:
    • But no one else?
  • B:
    • No
  • A:
    • Ohhhhhkay…
    • Can he bounce it?
  • B:
    • Sure
  • A:
    • Got it

[time passes – ball goes out for a throw in]

  • A:
    • Hey, look! That guy just picked it up
  • B:
    • No that’s ok its…

[ball handed to a different player to take throw-in]

  • A:
    • Hey! now that guys picking it up… foul! right?!?
  • B:
    • No, no it’s a throw in
  • A:
    • But you said
  • B:
    • [becoming increasingly frustrated]
    • Look I know, but if it goes out of bounds you can throw it back in
  • A:
    • Can you kick it back in?
  • B:
    • No you can only use your hands
  • A:
    • But I thought you could only…
  • B:
    • [interrupting]
    • …it’s different for a throw in
  • A:
    • Well okay then… [deflated]… but that’s not what you said man
  • B:
    • I know, I know, but let’s just enjoy the game
    • Look that’s pretty much everything now anyway
  • A:
    • Cool… so out of bounds is ok… the goaltenders can…
    • Woah! hang on! What’s this guy doing!?!?
  • B:
    • It’s a free kick
  • A:
    • But he’s picking it up!!!
  • B:
    • [sighs]
  • A:
    • I thought you said…

Footnote:

This pretty much went on for the duration of the game, i’m not sure they were even speaking to each other by the final whistle.

USA 94 Memoriessteve.welsh@gmail.com