Why Olympic Soccer is Sometimes Forgotten


Copa America header Bjorn kochEvery four years, the best soccer players around the world come together in what becomes an absolute spectacle in the soccer universe. Seeing the most agile, the fastest, the most skilled soccer players, both men and women, competing on the grandest scale imaginable is an experience like none other. And the competition among nations only makes the fans more impassioned.

No, I’m not talking about the Olympics, I’m talking about the World Cup.

Soccer is, however, in the Olympics, though it’s not often prioritized, heavily watched, or particularly important in the eyes of many soccer fans. Why is this?

It is, in part, because the World Cup is solely a soccer event. People gather around the globe to watch the best players play for their country in the greatest sport on Earth–soccer. The Olympics, on the other hand, are composed of far, far, far more events than just soccer. It’s difficult from the point of view of a soccer fan, then, to put weight into the Olympics when spattered in between soccer matches are the shot put, the long jump, some basketball and the triple jump.

Another huge issue, and one that is perhaps more prevalent now during the Rio Olympics, is the participation. It is not at all uncommon for the stars of the game to decline Olympic invites over concerns regarding staying healthy. Not only do athletes want to return home with all of their ligaments and bones attached and in one piece, they want to return healthy on a broader scale, too. With the enormous scare over the Zika virus during the Olympics in Rio, a large number of athletes–and not just soccer players–backed out in the waning months over fears of contracting the disease and passing it on to loved ones.

Simply put, some athletes don’t particularly care all that much about the Olympics, particularly if they’re coming off of a championship of their own back home. It’s not uncommon for basketball players who win the NBA title to decline the Olympics because, in their eyes, they’ve already achieved the highest honor they could that year. To compound this, age limits on the Olympics prevent other athletes–sometimes stars–from participating in the games, pointing towards the popularity of the World Cup, which of course has no age limit.

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Bjorn Koch is a businessman, world traveler, lover of fine dining and soccer fanatic. Born in Germany, where he fell in love with Bayern Munich, Bjorn currently resides in Boston, MA.