It’s easy to get bogged down in the usual existential sadness of being a Razorback fan, but folks, you don’t have to be sad! There’s a program at the University of Arkansas that’s thriving, and you should be hopping on the bandwagon while it’s still in Fayetteville. I’m speaking, of course, about Razorback Soccer!
The Arkansas soccer team is off to a sizzling start— they’ve started the season 8-1-1— and have shown no signs of slowing down, knocking off several ranked teams, including #22 Baylor and #1 North Carolina. Last night they continued their excellent run, defeating #15 Vanderbilt at home. The Razorbacks have also gone over 650 minutes without conceding a goal, outscoring opponents 25-0 in that span.
The soccer program’s revolution is a testament to the excellent management of coach Colby Hale, who has won a program record 90 wins. Hale joined in 2011, and the team has never looked back, making some five appearances in the NCAA Tournament since then— the only appearances the program has ever made.
While attendance is consistently rising under Hale’s tenure, it could stand to rise more, because this team deserves it, so I’m going to take today’s blog to dispel with some of the fiction that surrounds soccer in American culture, and hopefully entice you to go to a game!
But Tucker, soccer is boring!
Simply put: no. I understand where this criticism comes from— from an outside perspective, it can look like 22 people running around a field for 90 minutes. I get that. But if you look more closely, you’ll learn that soccer produces some of the most beautiful displays of tactics and teamwork in all of sports. It’s like baseball— there’s way more going on behind the scenes than you realize. The formations and tactics involved are complex and intriguing.
The premium nature of goals also makes for probably the greatest release of excitement in any sport— there’s a reason why foreign commentators go nuts when a goal is scored. The build up makes it such that your butt is clenched for essentially an entire game. You’re used to that from other Razorback sports, so this is no different!
But Tucker, soccer players are divas who flop and the fans are crazy!
Yeah, I’ve seen all the videos of guys getting brushed and falling over like they’re dead. It’s an unfortunate product of the fact that one ref has to monitor an entire field. For fouls to be noticed, you kinda have to sell them. HOWEVER, this happens much less frequently than you’d think. It also happens much less frequently in women’s soccer. I guess the girls are tougher than the boys, because they play through hard fouls. You likely won’t see much flopping from this team.
As for the fans, hell yeah they’re crazy! But have you seen a sane person at any sporting event? I didn’t think so. The best part about soccer fandom is the community of chanting, drumming, and vuvuzela-ing. You get a license to go crazy, and how fun is that??
But Tucker, soccer is so... European!
You’re right. It is so European and South American and Asian and Oceanian and African and yes, North American! Soccer is the world’s game, largely because the only thing you need to play it is a ball. It’s a cheap sport to play, and consequently, people can play it anywhere.
This is the beauty of soccer in my mind. Little brings the world together like sports, and soccer is the most popular sport in the world. For God’s sake, the 2018 World Cup was in Russia in the middle of a political crisis, but the whole world stopped to watch the soccer matches. That’s powerful. When you sign up to be a soccer fan, you sign up to join a wide community of brothers and sisters that covers the whole world. That can only be a net positive.
This team is good— like, really good. Arkansas is a quirky fanbase that can always get behind a winner, and you’ve got one right here. I would encourage all of you to give these players a shot. Who knows? You might have a new favorite sport!
You can watch them on the road at South Carolina on September 29th at 1pm, or at home on October 3rd at 7pm.
Happy Friday, folks.