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Giving US an Appetite for Soccer

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Will US commentators have to ``talk down'' to their American audiences? ``It's a very tricky balance,'' he says, ``because a lot of the audience will be true believers who don't want to be insulted with endless explanations of, say, the offside rule. To do it subtly is the way to go.

``But the style's going to be different from what the Europeans, and especially the British, are used to. Announcers will concentrate more on the players than on the rules, and with the extra cameras and replay possibilities it'll be easy to pick up those things that will satisfy American viewers who like their sport up close and personal.'' Not an easy sell

Malin concedes that the process of selling soccer to Americans has not been easy. ``There was a time,'' he says, ``when it was regarded as a foreign, un-American thing.'' The notion that a soccer final would not be settled in one day leaves most Americans incredulous: Under the British system, a scoreless final goes into 30 minutes of overtime.

If there is still no result, the game is replayed another day. After 90 more minutes of regulation play and 30 minutes of overtime, the teams resort to taking turns making five penalty kicks on goal until there is a winner. The British were slow to adopt the penalty-kick rule, though they have been a feature of other European competitions and the World Cup for more than a decade.

Malin points out that soccer has come a long away in the United States since he first laced up his soccer shoes at Harvard.

``But if there are to be changes,'' Malin adds, ``I think the people who have the world view are the ones who should be entrusted with the task. Americans who love the game and are involved in it, have to be a part of it, but not a separate outside group tinkering with it and frightening others away.''

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