Jessica Vann is a member of the championship women's soccer team at WVU.
She has explored this well-loved sport as it is practiced in Les Sables
d'Olonne. She has a detailed graph going from the pure starters, to the
"chicks" (8-9 years old) to the "seniors" (above 18). She notes that
private clubs are the soccer centers of France and that public schools and
universities do not offer organized competition. Soccer clubs offer all
levels of training and competition, from the local amateur level all the way
to the professional level. Since schools and colleges to not compete in
athletics, there is no such thing as the NCAA, etc. Players are free to
compete and to be compensated in a very open market for athletes. Most
good players compete for fairly small purses, but some make a living in the
elite clubs that draw vast crowds of enthusiastic and even fanatical
supporters (you don't know what "fan" really means until you've seen a
European soccer riot...). Salaries at the professional level run from
15,000€ (one euro now equals about $1.15) all the
way up to 450,000€ for the super star Zénadine Zidane. I might note that
all of France and all of Cameroun are in mourning today. These two teams
are finalists in the Confedrations Cup championship this Sunday, but yesterday
one of Cameroun's favorite players dropped dead on the field in the
semi-finals. Two nations and the world of soccer are gravely shaken.
France played Turkey last night and won 3-2. Each goal was marked with
an index finger to the heavens in honor of their friend and fellow sportsman.