Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California on June 7, 1998 · Page 8
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Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California · Page 8

Ukiah, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 7, 1998
Page 8
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Snorts THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL WORLD CUP '98 The world's greatest sporting spectacle By RAY HAMILL The Daily Journal How do you make the world's greatest sporting event even better? You make it bigger and last longer. And that's exactly what soccer's world governing body, FIFA, has done. When World Cup '98 kicks off in France Wednesday, 32 teams will battle it out over the following five weeks, including the United Sates, which opens against Germany on June 15. The tournament is divided into eight groups of six teams, with every team playing each of the teams in its group once in round one. The top two teams from each group will then advance to the round of 16. where single elimination kicks in through the quarterfinals, semi finals and championship game in mid July. Among the favorites at this year's tournament will be defending champions Brazil, which has won a record four titles and is the only team to have qualified for all 16 finals. Also considered among the favorites at this year's tournament will be Italy, Germany and the host nation France. In round one, the U.S. will play Germany (June 15), Iran (June 21) and Yugoslavia (June 25). Twice the U.S. has reached the second round, including four years ago as the host nation, and once, in the inaugural tournament in 1930, the team reached the semi finals. U.S. coach Steve Sampson has described his team's chances of winning the tournament as the closest thing to impossible. Probably not what the casual U.S. soccer fan wants to hear, but a realistic statement nonetheless. Still, U.S. soccer has come a long way over the past decade, and a trip to the second round will be a difficult but realistic goal. Anything less will be considered a disappointment, while anything more will be a major achievement. ©.Italy <8> Chile Cameroon Austria Scotland Morocco Norway up seedings for France ••>&.. w-a^V t t " ** GROUPC France South Africa Saudla Arabia Denmark GROUPG (0) Romanta (Q) Colombia © -England Spain Nigeria Paraguay Bulgaria GROUP H ; Japan KRT Infographics Soccer rules in Mendocino County Young local coaches bring the game home By RAY HAMILL The Daily Journal F ootball, basketball and baseball coaches are feeling the strain. Soccer is the fastest growing sport in America. Once considered a second class citizen, played exclusively by emigrants and their children, soccer has seen its popularity soar to new heights over the past decade. And just like any other small community across the country, Mendocino County has been witness to the change in fortune. The Ukiah Valley Youth Soccer League (UVYSL) had 1300 kids sign up to play „.,„ last season, well over twice the number Little League baseball has and over six times the number football attracts. When the "father" of soccer in the local community, Dennis Lucido, first initiated the league in the mid 70s, the number of participants could easily be accommodated on one field. Now the sport has progressed to the level that almost a dozen fields around the area are used constantly throughout the season. "We use every field we can," local coach and longtime soccer enthusiast Sharon Rothrock said. "Calpella, Redwood Valley, Potter Valley, all the school grounds in the area as well as Hopland and Anderson Valley. I think there's not a field left in town." And the newfound popularity is not confined to the youth level, with 38 local adult teams playing throughout the summer, including two men's divi- SOURCES: Soccer Jr,; Ronaldo's Internet site (; KRT photo At 21, he's being called the world's best soccer player. His meteoric rise to fame began in a shabby village in Brazil, where he played football in the streets. DID yOU KNOW? ED NUDE FOR: Nike advertisement NICKNAMES: 'The Extraterrestrial," '?The Next Pele" PLAYS FOR: Inter Milan (Italy) and Brazil's World Cup team HIS GAME: Exceptionally fast, strong runner; outstanding dribbling; scored a record 233 goals in six years EARLY SETBACK: At 14, was rejected by a team because he couldn't afford bus fare to get to practice PEMONHL DflTfl • BORN: Sept. 22,1976, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Luna • GREW UP IN: Bento Ribiero, Brazil • FAMILY: Raised primarily by mother Sonia; alcoholic father Nelio left family • HEIGHT: 6 feed • WEIGHT: 170 Ibs. File photo Local soccer players like Willits' Summer Bickford, above, have benefitted from the recent growth of the sport in Mendocino County, while to the left, is Brazilian star Ronaldo set to follow in the footsteps of former stars like Pele and Maradona? PREVIOUS WINNERS 1930 - Uruguay 1934-Italy 1938 - Italy 1950 - Uruguay 1954 - West Germany 1958 - Brazil 1962 - Brazil 1966 - England 1970 - Brazil 1974 - West Germany 1978 - Argentina 1982 - Italy 1986 - Argentina 1990 - West Germany 1994 - Brazil » The 15 previous World Cups have been won by just six different teams. • Brazil has won more World Cups than any other co'tiiitr^ with four, followed by both West Germany and Italy with three apiece. • West Germany has been the most consistent team over the past two decades, appearing in four of the last six championship games and winning twice, • Brazil is the only team to win the World Cup outside its own continent, claiming its first title in Sweeden in 1958. Americans just don't understand See SOCCER, PageA-10 WORLD CUP '98, THE FAVORITES Brazil • Perennial favorites. Anything less than a championship will be considerd a disappointment. Is Ronaldo really the next Pele? France - With the home crowd cheering them on, the host nation could claim first ever title. Italy - Notoriously slow starters, the three-time champions are always dangerous. Alessandro Del Piero could be ready to take center stage. Germany • The most consistent performers over the past two decades with four championship game appearances in the last six World Cups. NEXT BEST Holland • The Dutch produce a never-ending string of great players. England - Played the purist soccer at European Championships two years ago. A joy to watch. Argentina • Two-time champions could be ready to peak at the right time. Spain - Should be dangerous so close to home. I'm sorry America, but you really just don't i get it. Now maybe you don't want to get it. After all, you have your Superbowl, your NBA finals, your World Series and - the most exciting of them all - your Stanley Cup Finals. And on top of that, you don't have to wait four years for any of them. But when it comes to the World Cup, you really just don't understand, which is ironic really. The world's most passionate sports fans being the least passionate about the world's biggest and greatest sporting event. Bigger and greater than the Olympics, you ask? Try this for size. Over 37 billion people will watch at least some play over the next five weeks, twice the audience of the Olympics. But it's not just about watching. It's far more than that, and no mere figures can possibly gauge the impact of the World Cup. The World Cup is about passion. Passion on the field of play, passion in the stands, and passion in the cities, towns and villages thousands of miles away. It's about people putting political and religious differences aside for a brief moment. It's about grown men crying deliriously because their team won a game. And it's about a national pride that no other sporting event or event of any kind can come close to. In 1990, Costa Rica reached the round of 16 and the country declared a national holiday, while Ireland reached the quarterfinals and over one million people - approximately a quarter of the country's population - lined the streets to welcome the team home. The same year, the United States reached the round of 16, a major accomplishment at the time. The response? "Oh yeah that's nice, but who won last night's basketball game?" Four years ago I watched the opening two weeks of the World Cup in Ireland, including the Irish team's victory over eventual runners- up Italy. The atmosphere was incredible, and it ON THE SIDELINES BY RAY HAMILL is a moment 1 will never forget. Reports had an estimated 98 percent of the country's population tuning into the game. The following day (hangovers aside), the whole country walked around on air, with as broad a smile on people's faces as you're ever likely to see. I arrived in the U.S. midway through the tournament, happy in the belief that I was coming over to the host nation and would sample some of the atmosphere first hand. Boy was I in for a letdown. Few people even noticed it was on, and even less cared. I really wished I had waited two more weeks. "The World Cup? Oh yeah, that's that soccer thing isn't it? But what about those Giants eh?" Soccer, as a participant sport, is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Here in Ukiah, 1300 kids signed up for last year's youth soccer league, but as a spectator sport, it truly lags way behind the traditional favorites. The obstacles are numerous and obvious. The United States is a continent, roughly the size of Europe, and sports fans here are far more See WORLD CUP, PageA-10

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