I have a little secret. This is only shared with the rare few that can appreciate such things: I am a fútbol fan (sometimes referred to as soccer, but never by me) living in football country. Now, I know what you may be thinking. In this great state of Texas, football is likened to religion by many. And although the football played with that oblong pigskin is a big deal (trust me, I get that), I always make time to appreciate the fútbol that’s played with the white round ball adorned with cool streaks (depending on the league of course).

Folks I am an unabashed fútbol junkie. I watch it all: The English Premiere League (in the UK), Liga MX (in Mexico), the Bundesliga (in Germany), La Liga (in Spain), and our local FC Dallas Hoops and on and on and on. They’re called the “Hoops” because of the horizontal stripes on their uniforms in case that ever comes up as a trivia question.

And every four years, the world gets together to decide who has the best fútbol team at the World Cup. I watch that too…sometimes at really weird times in the a.m. when most sensible folks are asleep.

Now imagine my surprise when I looked at the Arlington calendar and saw that the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final is coming to our fair city. Most hard core football fans just saw all those initials and closed their browsers; I really don’t know what it stands for either, but it’s a competition between the countries in North and Central America and the Caribbean. And it’s a big deal, well at least to those that follow the sport.

So football fans, if you’re feeling brave and want to venture out of your comfort zone, why don’t you buy a ticket to check out a fútbol of another sort.

Here my top 7 tips to enjoy CONCACAF:

  1. The regular football you’re used to has 11 players for each team; a fútbol match also has 11 players a side. We are starting off super strong here.
  2. Unlike regular football where anyone can touch the ball and advance it, even the big ugly dudes, the goaltender (or goalie if you’re feeling frisky) is the only person on the pitch (fancy word for field) that can touch the ball. He will also wear a different color jersey (always long sleeved) to set him apart.
  3. Now here is where I may lose the die-hard football fan … the clock in my sport counts up instead of down and runs continuously for 45 minutes in the first half and another 45 minutes after halftime. The referee may add time at his or her discretion.
  4. Scoring in my sport is a little easier to understand. Kick, head or chest the ball past the goalie, and you score a “Goooooooooooooaaaaaallllll” (always really fun to listen to).
  5. Penalties are given in cards, yellow first and then red. If you get a red card you are ejected from the game, and your team plays without you. Sure some of my football brethren would have loved to see this, especially if the opponent is a Giant, Redskin or Eagle.
  6. When you buy your ticket, pay close attention to what section you are in. My advice would be to wear the colors of your section mates, just good, sound advice for obvious reasons.
  7. Some fun fútbol terms to impress your friends when you go: A “nutmeg” is one you kick the ball between someone’s legs without losing stride; a “postage-stamp” is scoring a goal at the very top of the goal to the left or right, where the goalie has absolutely no chance to react; and finally a “banana kick” is one where the player makes the ball curve, well like a banana.

So there you have it. Confessions of a fútbol fan living in football country. Try attending a match sometime … you might have two favorite sports afterwards, just like I do!