Fact: the sport of soccer is growing in the United States. Fact: there are still people who don’t like the sport and probably won’t ever like it. Fact: more professional athletes in the United States are getting into the world's game, especially American Football players.
Odell Beckham Jr, Ndamukong Suh, Andrew Luck, Pierre Garcon, and former NFLer Chad Johnson have all showed their love for the sport that first coined the term "football." Even NBA players have shown their love for the sport. Between Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and now Stephen Curry, the world's game has taken a stronghold within other athletes. Now you can add Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman to the list of hard-nosed NFLers who have come out as fans of the sport.
The 28-year-old all-pro defensive back recently visited Paris Saint-Germain, his favorite club. Norman had visited the club a year ago and wanted to make another trip to the Parc des Princes.
“I already saw them once, and then coming back again, it’s like a fresh friendship,” Norman said. “They’ve seen my face so they know I’m real about it and I kinda feel the same way from them to me.”
Like a lot of new soccer fans these days, a lot of the intrigue in the sport is generated by one of the most addicting video games ever, FIFA. When asked what his teammates think about his love for the game of soccer, Norman said “ they are starting to get into it. There are some players who play FIFA and want to challenge me because they know how much of a FIFA head I am.” Norman went on to say PSG was his squad when he games FIFA, saying “They’re my favorite team because of Zlatan, a striker obviously, then you got Cavani and Lucas on the edge… David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Verrati. I mean you could go on and on.”
Lucky for fans of Paris Saint-Germain in the United States, it won't take a trip to Paris to see their favorite team play. PSG will tour the United States this summer, tentatively from July 17 - August 1, 2016, as part of the International Champions Cup. (Fan can keep track of club news and tour dates here.) They will play Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Leicester City in Columbus, Ohio, Eugene, Oregon, and Carson, California, respectively.
Like we mentioned Norman is just one of many professional athletes that has a new found love for the game. For Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck, and New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, the sport was their first love.
There are stories about Andrew Luck taking trips to England to catch a Premier League match during his bye weeks, and the Stanford alumni has traveled to Mexico City to see the United States take on Mexico in a World Cup qualifier and even to the Champions League final a couple years ago. He was even a guest on the Men in Blazers podcast once. Growing up in Germany and London, Luck naturally was drawn to the sport. “The fervor of it — your great-great-great-grandfather was a supporter, so you’re a supporter,” Luck said. “The political affiliations, too, make it much different than American sports.”
As for Odell Beckham, he said he could have been the next Messi or Neymar if he had stuck with the sport. The human highlight-reel said his first sport was soccer, which he started playing at the age of three. Beckham Jr. continued to play until he was 14 and said that his coach pushed him to try out for the U.S. Men's National Team; however, that likely would have meant going overseas to play and leaving his family at a young age, which was a sacrifice the young Beckham didn’t want to make. But nevertheless, it’s a sport he still loves to this day.
With more and more players from the NFL and NBA showing their support for the worlds game, it will only expedite the growth of the sport in America. Heck, there is even commercials of Kobe Bryant advertising for the Copa America.
So if you are one of those people who just can’t get into soccer, just know that all the athletes of your beloved NFL and NBA are. And if the world’s greatest athletes from the U.S. are taking notice of the athleticism, preparation and skill of the sport that the world has loved for so long, maybe it’s time you do too.
Follow Bryce Badwan on Twitter @bbadss