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Learning to love the other football

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No, I’m not going to start watching Manchester United and the UEFA Champions League.

I might be too old for that one.

That’s not to say, though, that I haven’t decided to embrace soccer, at least on a local level.

Sure, I’m still somewhat of a dinosaur. And you have to consider my background.

My football coach, a farmer/cowboy named Jim Wilson, believed that football had to be in your blood if you wanted to enter Good Ole’ Boy Heaven. Wrestlers would get warts if they touched a basketball and football players would get all those awful foot diseases if they kicked a soccer ball.

Real men played football. Those who played soccer were ... well, let’s not go there.

I guess as the years pass, you do, indeed, get wiser. You learn that this new Internet thing might be worth learning about, and that watching eight bodies collide in front of the goal on a corner kick can be exciting.

There is a certain ignorance that goes into the thought that soccer is boring. For much of my life, I was content to embrace this ignorance. Wasn’t it un-American to like soccer?

These days, though, it’s pretty hard to be a sports editor without running into a few soccer matches. Like it or not, the sport is growing, right here in your Columbus backyard.

On one of my first tours of the Columbus Parks and Rec facilities, I came upon the Wigh Soccer Complex and all those adjacent soccer fields. It was like gazing upon a Nebraska wheat field. They just went on and on and on. They have to be there for a reason, don’t they?

Then it became apparent that some of Indiana’s best high school soccer is played right here in Columbus. The Columbus North boys, of course, went to the state finals last year. The state runner-up North girls have been a powerhouse for years. Now the East girls program has blossomed and is ranked No. 13 in the state, and the East boys just won the Hoosier Hills Conference title in riveting fashion.

Better yet, they are fun to watch. Anyone who has seen the pure passion of East’s Emma Dwenger or the athleticism and toughness of North’s Elizabeth James is bound to come back for more. The discipline of the Bull Dogs’ boys squad lets you know that an extraordinary amount of work goes into the end product, and the pure joy that the Olympian boys display every time they take the pitch simply wins you over.

Well, they will win your over if you give them a chance. This week, give them a chance.

It’s soccer week in Columbus, with North hosting the sectional playoffs. The North and East boys will be in action at Wigh on Wednesday (North at 6 p.m., East at 8 p.m.) and they likely are headed for a Saturday showdown at 7 p.m. The North and East girls play on Thursday (North at 6 p.m., East at 8 p.m.) with a showdown likely at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

I know, some of you are saying, this is old news, these teams have been good for a long time. That might be common knowledge to the mainstream crowd, but not so much to the community as a whole.

I saw the amazing support the community gives to the North-East football game. Wouldn’t it be nice to approach that atmosphere if the soccer teams face off Saturday?

My love for football isn’t going to change. I’m just making room for ... ewww ... soccer.

This old dog learned about a new trick. How about you?

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