Know Your Soccer
June 23, 2010 2 Comments
Just in time for the “World-Cup”: more fun facts about soccer, based on what I know about soccer.
- Soccer, for those of you who may not be familiar with this curious pastime, is a children’s game originally designed in 1959 by SRA (Science Research Associates, Inc.) on a limited-but-renewable 2-year government grant signed by President Eisenhower “for the cost-effective promotion of safe, wholesome outdoor play in a controlled setting” in a bill primarily focused on disaster recovery and crowd control in a post-nuclear scenario. It was distributed as a Supplemental Learning Module (along with reading/instructional materials and a filmstrip) to K-6 teachers in classrooms all across the country that fall to much fanfare.
- During the research phase its working name was Egalometric Teamplayment. The roots of the informal term “soccer” are murky and to this day the term is still disavowed in official Department of Education communications, in favor of the official name.
- In what proved to be one of the game module’s (1st-3rd editions) less-popular features, the original instructions specified that all officiating and player communication be conducted solely in Esperanto. This rule is only still followed in Egalometric Teamplayment Leagues in Ashland, Oregon and certain parts of Harlem.
- The Florida Orange Council, contracting with ad agency Foote, Cone, & Belding, in 1965 sponsored a successful campaign to have “Soccer Oranges” ™ inserted into the official game materials. According to this (at the time controversial, indeed nearly filibustered by Senator Strom Thurmond, but now mandatory and near-universally accepted) rule, all the soccer-playing children must eat at least three (3) sliced oranges (the slices being 45+/-5 degrees wedge) at halftime. This was also seen as an effective measure for disposing of surplus orange crops, bolstering the price of orange futures and thereby helping the American orange farmer. Although this section of the game is not contractually included in television broadcasts, the rule is also strictly observed in all FIFA play including the World Cup.
- The famed “red cards” and “yellow cards” that still can be seen to be displayed by soccer referees at random, unpredictable intervals throughout any soccer game are a vestige of an earlier game design. In the game’s early years, these red and yellow rectangles (which were originally triangles) were part of a larger set of shapes/colors (purple hexagons, blue triangles, etc.) similar to Tangrams. The initial SRA proposal contemplated stopping the game at random intervals, choosing two opposing players at random, and submitting them to a ‘Tiling Challenge’ involving tangram-like constructive play on a special mat that would be unfurled in the middle of the field. This was to be, in effect, an IQ test so as to identify and weed out those children too intelligent to fall into the game’s target IQ-bands.
- The most famous soccer character in history, “Pele”, was played masterfully by an actor (nee LeRoy Jackson) from the south side of Chicago chosen by the Carter Administration after an exhaustive nationwide audition to help the DoE promote the game as part of its anti-”malaise” efforts. This project (which also helped fund the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Victory!) was deemed a success by all administrators when it came up for review in 1983, although funding was cut soon after under mysterious circumstances.
- The CIA World Factbook cites the invention and promulgation of soccer as one of the U.S. intelligence community’s most successful disinformation/propaganda efforts, stating in part that “there are regions of the Third World and/or England where one can travel for days without encountering a single soul who is even remotely aware of the American roots of [soccer]“. Robert McNamara considered it central to his “hearts and minds” strategy.
So know your soccer! It’s the peoples’s game.