In case you haven't heard, the World Cup — the world's largest sporting event — is set to kick off in Brazil next week. Now, for all of its Caribbean and European flavor, New Orleans is far from a soccer hot spot and the sport is still easily lampooned (see above). But starting a week from today on June 12, it will be hard for anyone to escape World Cup action. So, to prepare everyone for the soccer onslaught, I'll be previewing all the different ways for you to enjoy the beautiful game.
Today, we're going to start with some Soccer 101. Hopefully, most people understand the basic rules of the game. Two teams of eleven players try to score by placing a ball past the goal line using any part of their body except their arms and hands. Pretty basic stuff and, at it's core, soccer is not much more than a steadily advancing game of keep-away (mind you, this is a gross oversimplification).
But instead of going forward and trying to explain more detailed parts of the game - the offsides rule, tactics and formations - I'm just going to encourage all casual sports fans to do one thing: watch some soccer before the World Cup starts. There are three ways you can do this and all will serve as a useful crash course on the game:
1) Go see a real-life soccer game - Did you know that New Orleans has its own soccer team? And did you know that they are currently undefeated? The New Orleans Jesters have been playing the beautiful game in the Big Easy since 2009 and have become a sort of stepping stone for local soccer players looking to make the leap into the pros (currently, the team sports three players that played at Jesuit High School).
Tickets are a bargain at $5 and the team plays games Friday and Saturday at Pan-American Stadium.
2) Go to a local viewing party - Of course, making sense of soccer on your own without having studied the game before can be hard, so I recommend viewing the game surrounded by soccer fans that can help you understand the nuances of the game. The New Orleans chapter of the American Outlaws — a fan group that supports the United States Men's Soccer Team — hosts viewing parties regularly at the Rendezvous Tavern on Magazine St.
3) Watch games online - If you're too embarrassed by your lack of soccer knowledge or are just the type of person that enjoys their sports at home, watching games online is another way to cram. This weekend features a bevy of international friendlies (aka exhibition games), many of which feature teams who look to hoist the World Cup trophy in Brazil and most of which will be broadcast by ESPN's online streaming service.
Once again, these are just a few basic ways to increase your soccer knowledge before the rest of the world starts beating you over the head about the intricacies of the offsides rule and the award-winning antics of injured players. As the World Cup approaches, we're going to explore all the ways to enjoy the World Cup in New Orleans.