Sayers, the women’s soccer coach at East Tennessee State, recently returned from Brazil, where he spent almost two weeks and attended four World Cup games. Along the way, he met some prominent people in the Brazilian women’s game and soaked in the Brazilian soccer culture while watching the world’s best players on the world’s biggest stage.
He saw his home country of England play twice, falling 2-1 to Italy and Uruguay, as well as games featuring Argentina and Bosnia, and Spain and Chile.
“It was amazing,” Sayers said. “To get to observe some of the world’s best players first-hand was fantastic.”
Although Sayers is a fan deep down, when he watches soccer played at the highest level, he can’t help but watch it through the eyes of a coach. The former Tusculum College star will enter his fourth season as ETSU’s coach this fall.
“You’re always looking to pick things up you can utilize on our team at ETSU,” he said. “It might be something as simple as a set-play routine or a certain philosophy. I’m always looking for things like that when we get to observe it first-hand.”
Being at the biggest soccer tournament in the world gave Sayers a chance to observe all kinds of styles of play, and he was taking notes, at least mental ones.
“The world cup is so unique,” he said. “Teams come from all over the globe. You get so many clashes of styles, so many philosophies. It is a unique soccer environment.
“We have a lot of international players on our team as well as domestic. They all come from different soccer backgrounds. We have to mix it together.”
Brazil was even more soccer-crazy than Sayers thought, and he knew it was soccer-crazy when he headed there.
“It’s a real soccer culture,” he said. “Everywhere you look, there’s young kids playing the game. It might be on a barren piece of grass or in a parking lot. There’s young kids everywhere with balls playing soccer. That is one of the reasons they have so many good players. You can see why they traditionally develop some of the world’s greatest players.
“That’s why they’re so in love with the game.”
Brazilians weren’t quite so much in love with the game on Tuesday. A stunning 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals left the host country embarrassed and deflated.
“I doubt we’ll ever see anything like that again in a World Cup semifinal,” Sayers said. “You can see from the faces in the crowd and on some of the players how much it means to them. There’s an old saying that England is the home of football but its soul is in Brazil. They were absolutely humiliated.”
Sayers is a native of Birmingham, England, so seeing his country go out in three games at the World Cup wasn’t exactly what he had hoped.
“That was pretty disappointing,” he said. “For them to go out so early. On the flip side, the USA had a fantastic run. Obviously, I’m a big fan of the USA as well. It was great to see them qualify from a very difficult group with Portugal and Germany. To come so close against Belgium was a bit disappointing, but I think it was another step forward for soccer in this country.
“Down in Brazil, we saw more Americans than anyone else. The support down there was huge. It was just a great experience. The overall experience was just fantastic.”
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