I don't really follow international soccer, but I've played all my life, as have all of my siblings. So, I have to weigh in here to defend the only sport I've ever played (in an organized league, that is).
Let's see, no riots in baseball. Hmmmmm, then what was it that those 19 Cubs (I think) got suspended for just this week - I believe it was rioting in the stands with the fans. I'd be interested to see a comparison of the number of bench clearing brawls in any soccer league around the world vs. the the number of brawls by the freakin' children playing Major League baseball. I'm guessing the soccer leagues are gonna come out just a weeeee bit ahead on that one. GROW UP, YOU BUNCH OF OVERPAID BABIES!!!
Let me just forestall the obvious counter argument now - "Yeah, but atleast we don't kill anybody, blah blah blah." If you think those are soccer fans that are killing each other out there, think again. Those people are soccer fans just like all the morons in Seattle a few months back who rioted outside the WTO meetings were diehard world finance enthusiasts. Trust me, true soccer(football) fans DO NOT support the actions of the hooligans. Many of those thugs/morons/hooligans don't even go to the games, they just go the host city to be arseholes. Is the violence ridiculous? Hell yes, and I'm not about to defend it. But to condemn soccer because of these morons is just wrong - FIFA has done all it can to suppress hooliganism, but FIFA isn't the police.
I honestly think that, more than just about any other sport I can think of, you really have to PLAY soccer to enjoy and understand watching soccer. I've met plenty of die hard hockey fans who've never touched a stick, or football fans who've never tried to throw a spiral, but I've met very few soccer fans who aren't soccer players. I don't know why that is, maybe because it is a relatively "new" sport in the U.S. I do know that when you've played the sport yourself you realize just how amazing the professionals are, that they can do things like it is second nature that I couldn't even *dream* of doing with the ball.
Everyone in America focuses on the low scores in soccer games. Well, is all the excitement in baseball about the actual scoring, or is it about the *almost* scoring? I watched the last three innings of the Red Sox (I luv 'em, but damn them!) - Blue Jays game tonight. Nobody scored a run in those three innings, but that didn't mean it wasn't exciting watching to see if my beloved Sox could complete their comeback from a 11-1 deficit. (They couldn't - blanked for the last 3 innings, they lost 11-10). It's the same in soccer. Sure the score in the England/Germany game was only 1-0, but that doesn't mean there was only one scoring opportunity and only one shot during the game.
Guess which sport is played by more boys and girls high school and below than any other sport in America? Yup, soccer.
Now, to defend an American sport - Ian, don't try to jam on American football. Anyone who tries to say it's soft because the guys wear pads, that real football players (Australian rules football) or rugby players don't need pads, just hasn't watched much real American football. An exhibition game is not real football. Real football is a 260lb linebacker hitting a 240lb running back with both of them running at full speed. I've watched Aussie football and rugby - the players don't HIT, they TACKLE. There's a difference. When the sound of two players colliding can be heard throughout a stadium full of 75,000 screaming fans, that's a HIT. When you wrap someone up and drag them down to the ground, that's a tackle. Trust me, I'm not trying to say that Aussie football players and rugby players aren't tough - those guys are nuts. I'm just saying that the pads the players in American football wear allow the game to be played without literally killing people.
Well, that's enough babbling. Peace and Love.