Schmitt: World’s soccer community has lost its perspective

A great deal of concern has risen in the United States over the growing violence seen in professional sports today.

A helmet-to-helmet intentional hit in football that causes a severe concussion may be talked about for days on sports shows. Internationally, however, in countries such as Brazil, where soccer is seen much more as a religion than a sport, the mind set of the fan has become totally warped, and people worldwide have lost their entire perspective on the game.

The most shocking and insane example of this might be most recently seen in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where police say enraged spectators invaded a soccer field, stoned the referee to death, removed his limbs and decapitated him, after which the spectators were reported to have stuck his head on a stick and placed it at midfield.

The Public Safety Department in Maranhao said in a statement that it all started when referee Otavio da Silva expelled player Josenir Abreu from a game. The two got into a fist-fight, then Silva took out a knife and stabbed Abreu, who died on his way to the hospital. Abreu’s friends, relatives and fans immediately rushed the field and began the stoning.

No need to ask about security – it obviously is nearly non-existent – and this type of incredible homicide is not unheard of in other countries where soccer is not a way of life, but more like life itself.

This horrid incident may help us realize that we do have some sense of sanity when it comes to violence in sports in America and that our culture as a whole has sports in much better perspective than much of the world. It received little air time on sports talk show discussions here in the USA since the world soccer scene does not hold a great deal of interest with the American sporting press because it is not America’s game.

It was reported, but little was made of the incident. It is a scary thought, however, that World Cup games to be played in Brazil will need to come equipped with their own very high level of security. Multiple security personnel with automatic weapons would have to be the order of the day.


n The U.S. Men’s National Team shined in winning the world’s Gold Cup over Panama recently. It was America’s fifth Gold Cup title but its first title since 2007. It was also American coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s first international title with the team. He had previously won the World Cup with Germany. This was America’s 11th straight victory for its men’s national team and should give them a huge boost in the FIFA rankings.

Landon Donavon, who was outstanding during Gold Cup play, has returned to the team after taking a break from national play. He now stands as the top goal scorer in U.S. team history and is a must player for the team to remain an international threat. Donavon had five goals in Cup play and set up seven more going in to the finals. He played nearly every minute of the tournament and proved to be the driving force for the Americans.

After outscoring opponents 20-4 in the tournament, if everyone stays healthy, the American team should fare quite well in the next round of World Cup qualifying games beginning in September.

n The world’s leading women’s goalie, Hope Solo of the U.S., admitted to being inspired by and being a huge fan of mixed martial arts Ultimate Fighting Championships and tries to catch many of the fights live. She was in Brazil for the most recent one.

n Locally, it would be great to see the nominations committee for the Blair County Hall of Fame seriously consider the amount of time and effort freely given by Penn State Altoona soccer coach Maurice Taylor over the past 20 years in our area in developing youth soccer and look at him as a great choice for the Community Service Award.

Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.