Oh, balls: Why I lovethe sport of soccer

“Grow a pair.” It’s my new favorite sexist expression. When anyone within earshot is exhibiting less-than-assertive behavior, I exhort him/her to “Man up, dude, and grow a pair.”

The young moderns of Hollywood would appear, based on recent startling developments, to be taking my edict and running with it, all the way to the gender reassignment clinic. First Chaz Bono grows a pair and now Kathlyn Beatty! Yes! Last week the world learned that Warren Beatty and Annette Bening’s 18-year-old daughter now goes by the slightly Semitic name “Stephen Ira” and is planning, allegedly, a surgical modification of her lady-parts.

In these confusing heady days of fluid gender, celebrity lumber-jills, designer hormones and burgeoning tranny-power, the FIFA World Cup, with its uncomplicated display of traditional masculinity, is something of a lemon sorbet. It is the ne plus ultra of male gender performance, and I for one could not be happier … and more titillated. Since the World Cup started, the only thing screeching louder than a vuvuzela has been yours truly.

Surprised? Don’t be. After all, I grew up in the U.K. Though Reading, my hometown team, lingered in the Fourth Division for most of my childhood, my enthusiasm was undeterred. I spent many an afternoon in the half-empty, rain-lashed stadium yelling “Up the Biscuits!” The Biscuits? This was the nickname given to our trusty team, courtesy of the looming, stinking, belching presence of the Huntley & Palmers Biscuit factory.

The years have rolled by, the salaries of the players have increased, and so has my prurient interest in their private lives and the carryings-on of their wives and girlfriends, a.k.a. the legendary WAGs. I’m talking about the likes of Colleen Rooney, Cheryl Cole and, of course, pop star/WAG/fashion force Victoria Beckham.

Don’t knock it. The flashy shenanigans that enhance and enrobe the cult of soccer provide my otherwise classist and cash-strapped homeland with a compelling and much-needed dollop of dolce vita. If you’re not sure what I am banging on about, then you need look no further than the hedonistic John Terry. His name became forever etched on the Brit psyche after Sue and Ted, his mum and dad, were respectively nabbed for shoplifting and selling cocaine in a pub. The headline-grabbing, boozing Chelsea captain recently caused a furor when he shagged a teammate’s lingerie-model girlfriend. Delicious!

If my soccer enthusiasms are seeming a bit pervy and inauthentic, well, there’s a good reason for that: They are. I support teams purely based on the glamour, naughtiness and physical appearance of the players. I wanted Portugal to win against Côte d’Ivoire last week purely because Cristiano Ronaldo was playing and his legs are better-looking than those propelling Didier Drogba. Last Saturday, I rooted for Slovenia based on all those jutting cheekbones. Players I am currently keeping a close eye on: Miloš Ninkovic of Serbia, Roque Santa Cruz of Paraguay and Georgios Samaras of Greece.

Where is the U.S. in all this? I admit that Benny Feilhaber is a very handsome dude, but his lack of interest in expensive designer duds and his earnest desire to fly under the tabloid radar is a bummer. If the U.S. hopes to dominate the sport—my more knowledgeable soccer-aholic pals seem convinced it will happen in the next 10 years—then the Yanks need to step up and play the game, by which I mean that they must embrace the fabulash, nouveau riche excesses of soccer, get a spray tan, buy the Dolce & Gabbana wardrobe and for God’s sake learn to GROW A PAIR!!!



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