Ultimate Goal

Kicking around soccer and other issues.

"After many years in which the world has afforded me many experiences, what I know most surely in the long run about morality and obligations, I owe to football.”

No less a luminary than Albert Camus made that observation more than a half-century ago about a game that was—and still is—all about camaraderie and teamwork. But, sorry, NFL fans: The French author/philosopher wasn’t talking about football as we know it here in the United States. Having played a bit of “the beautiful game’’ himself, he was professing his love for what most Americans call soccer.

Amazingly, it’s a sport that many in this country have dismissed as “the boring game.’’ Seriously? Don’t tell that to soccer’s 3.5 billion adherents across the globe, or to the legions of fans that have supported Orlando City Soccer Club. After four years of excelling in the USL Pro league, the Lions are about to enter Major League Soccer in a big way, with international superstar Kaká as part of the team. 

I, for one, was a bit skeptical when the team came onto the scene. Would this community buy into it? I enjoy soccer—the first game I saw in person was in 1978 in, of all places, Memphis, Tennessee. The city had a pro team called the Rogues, which went belly-up after just three seasons (but they had the coolest logo, that of a cartoonish “rogue’’ elephant dressed in soccer garb kicking a ball). The following year, I watched the Tampa Bay Rowdies—led by stars Rodney Marsh and Oscar Fabbiani—win a playoff game 1-0 that was decided on shootout kicks after 90 minutes of regulation and two overtimes. And that was anything but boring.

Since then, I’ve watched World Cup games on TV but haven’t taken in many soccer matches in person. That’s about to change with Orlando City. And I think many in our community are feeling the same vibe. To get you primed for what’s about to happen, we’ve put together this special issue that heralds the Lions’ entrance into MLS play. Peter Kerasotis profiles Kaká, Coach Adrian Heath and Orlando City’s raucous fans, while Michael McLeod offers an entertaining look into soccer terms for the beginner, along with a short history of the team. And a fan guide gives you the basics on tickets and TV coverage. 

Elsewhere, our annual Top Dentists list names 216 professionals who are of major-league status; we tell the story of a group keeping opera alive in Central Florida (and about to break into the big time with a performance at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts); Joseph Hayes reviews The COOP and Mamak Asian Street Food—two worthy additions to the restaurant scene; and Greg Dawson looks at another kind of dining venue: school lunchrooms, where Chef’s Surprise is yielding to dishes created by the students, for the students.

It’s time once again for our annual Best of Orlando poll. Go to www.orlandomagazine.com and vote for your favorites in dozens of categories, ranging from day spas to bike shops, music venues to watering holes. Just for voting, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free dinner for two at a top local restaurant.

Categories: Column