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The Line Between Soccer and Football With Tobi Theilman

The Line Between Soccer and Football With Tobi Theilman

Picture a young you, perhaps three years old, kicking a funny ball that you don’t have any relationship with…yet. This was the start of the lifelong relationship that Tobi Theilman has with soccer. Theilman, a senior at Forest Hills Eastern, is a starting CAM (central attacking midfielder) for the Hawks boys’ varsity soccer team – or if you’re from Germany like him – the boys’ varsity football team. 

Theilman has been playing soccer his entire life. From the age of three, his dad had him kicking a ball in the backyard in Germany. Tobi’s father played professionally in the 3 Liga – the third division of German professional football. This close and early exposure is what made Tobi fall in love with the game. At the age of five, he was already in a youth academy without paying a dime, which allowed him to carry his passion for soccer onto a pitch with other kids across Germany.  

Youth academies across Europe are free for all kids to join. According to “The Goal Coach,” one reason these opportunities are free is that many youth academies would rather cast a wider net for talent rather than charge for the possible financial gains. This is one example of the stark differences between American soccer and European football. These differences are something Theilman has seen his entire life, having lived in both Europe and the United States. 

Tobi explains, “I mean [European youth soccer] is free so it’s basically available for anyone who wants to play, whereas here it’s pretty expensive.”

In America, the price of high-level youth soccer can vary based on players, teams, locations, and skill levels. However, according to “Soccerblade,” youth soccer can cost at least over $1000. This not only demonstrates how expensive it is, but also reveals that for the same elite clubs Thielman and his teammates could play for free in Europe, the cost in the United States could be over $10,000. The price of youth soccer has been a hot topic across the United States ever since this past year when both the men’s and women’s United States National Teams competed in their respective World Cup competitions. While both held their own, making it to the Round of 16, ultimately both fell to countries in Europe. This once again highlighted how European players have an advantage because they have the ability to be exposed to soccer their entire lives, contrary to the rigid financial lines in the U.S. which makes soccer available to few. 

With soccer being so different in the U.S. due to the financial situation and tactics, (and its name), Theilman has had to adapt in high school to be successful in the American style of soccer. 

“[In American soccer] athletic guys are usually better — more skillful, [but] in Europe it was more like passing [teamwork] with one, two touch, move it.”

Theilman points out how more passing is emphasized in the game plans of European teams, with players taking one or two dribbles and then giving the ball up, whereas in the U.S., the more athletic guys are considered more important. Theilman also mentioned how soccer in the U.S. is less team-oriented compared to Europe. Along with the difference in styles, interest could also be a reason for the lack of U.S. soccer and its success on the field. More and more kids find themselves locked into sports like basketball or American football, instead of the sport that has transcended time in Europe. For Theilman however, whether it’s European or American football (soccer), He realizes how much the sport has shaped his life as he nears graduation as a senior. 

“It connects you more with people around the school [in] different grades. Usually, your team is made up of all high school grades; [It’s] very social.” 

Despite the cultural differences in the sport, Tobi Theilman has taken it all in stride here at Forest Hills Eastern. His unique angle sheds some light on soccer in the United States compared to its European counterpart, along with how different philosophies have created unique opinions about the sport around the world. Despite the global impacts of soccer, Tobi is still just trying to play the game he was taught by his dad the right way: with a smile on his face.

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About the Contributor
Julian Zolenski
Julian Zolenski, Staff Writer
Julian Zolenski is a Senior at Forest Hills Eastern. This is his second year being on the Hawk Herald Staff. Julian enjoys a number of different things about his busy life including working as a line cook, playing with his dog, and hanging out with his friends. Right now Julian has a dream of being a Sports Commentator. He intends to accomplish this goal by majoring in Broadcast Journalism in his college future. Julian knows this is a lofty goal, but he will not let anything stop him from accomplishing it.   
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    Addy CousinsSep 14, 2023 at 7:25 pm

    This is so good omg JZ!!!!