Your Soccer “Cheat Sheet”

World Cup Logo

You may have noticed a little bit of soccer-mania in the air. Yep, it’s the World Cup, running from June 12 – July 11. Four years ago, it was played in Germany; this time, the site is South Africa, and it’s already proving to be full of surprises and heartbreaks.

In case you need a little primer, here are some fun facts you might need to know:

Flopping and Diving: Watch these players carefully. Soccer players can throw tantrums too, and at the slightest bump can fall to the ground so it looks like they were hit a lot harder (is this a familiar bedtime sight for you too?). Why do they do this? Sometimes, it’s to get the refs to call a foul on another player; sometimes it’s just to run out the clock a bit, so the other team has less time to score. It’s annoying, and it’s also funny. And it’s a big part of futbol.

Red Cards: You’ve surely noticed that players get “carded” when they foul. They generally get a yellow card as their first warning; too many of those, and a player can get a red card – and get kicked out of the game. Parenting note: you will start telling your kids they will get a red card if they don’t get to the table in 3…2…1…

Vuvuzelas: You’ve surely noticed that annoying buzzing sound playing constantly in the background of every game? Those are vuvuzelas, plastic horns about a yard long that South African fans love, but many others loathe. There’s talk of banning them, but for now, they’re an omnipresent reminder of the unique location of this year’s games.

There’s also one very cool thing to note about our team. Most other national teams look pretty homogeneous – all the same. The US team reflects the diversity of our population – our players’ families have come from all over to create a “multi-culti” team. Jose Torres‘ parents are Mexican, and though he grew up here, he usually plays in Mexico; Stewart Holden was born in Scotland and moved here as a kid; the powerful Oguchi Onyewu‘s parents are from Nigeria, while Jozy Altador‘s are from Haiti; Clint Dempsey grew up in Texas, but played against Mexican kids in his trailer park. The coach is Bob Bradley, and his son, Michael Bradley, is one of the best players on the team.

One more bit of drama: When Ghana plays Germany on June 23 (check out the coolest full schedule ever,, it’ll really be brother-against-brother: Jerome and Kevin Boateng are brothers whose mom is German and whose dad is from Ghana. They each made a different team — and will play against each other. Ask the kids: What would that be like?

Of course, you’ll want to shop research project questions of limited-edition World Cup tees. Regardless of who you’re rooting for, they’re a fun way to celebrate “the beautiful game.”

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