World Cup Fever
That’s right, people: FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa is here! The month-long tournament started 11 days ago, and I have been soaking it all in. We are just 3 days and 12 games away from the end of group play and the beginning of the knock-out rounds. The competition and excitement is only increasing until the finale on July 11th.
I have been a soccer fan for 20 years now. TWENTY YEARS.
That girl in the pink t-shirt and super dorky shin guards? Yeah, that’s me on my very first soccer team. Twenty years ago. I’m sure my parents had no idea that that first team would spark in me a lifetime love of the game.
Me again (#15), approximately 14 years later. Senior night for my college team. Thankfully I picked up a few tips on shin guard fashion over the years.
So yeah… I’m a lifelong fan of the game. Here are just a few of the reasons I love watching the World Cup:
- It makes me glad to see people from every nation, culture, and economic background unite together. It’s the same warm fuzzies I get during the Olympic ceremonies.
- Unlike the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, or Stanley Cup, the champion of the World Cup will actually be a world champion.
- This year, I love seeing South Africa as host. For an American midwestern girl, I have a lot of connections to this beautiful country. A good friend of mine is currently living there and using soccer as a tool to share Christ. During one of my college summers, I worked with two South Africans coaching for youth soccer camps. In my first post-college job, my boss, the company president/CEO, the vice president, and many others in the company were South African.
- Soccer—football—is the beautiful game, for good reason. When it’s done right, it is a sight to behold. It takes my breath away and sends chills down my spine. Sport does not get any better than this.
A fellow footy fan shared a wonderful essay on the culture of the game: How Soccer Explains the World. It is a bit lengthy, but worth the read, even if you’re not a sports fan. Perhaps especially if you are not a soccer or sports fan. Here are a few highlights:
“Football is nationalism. Unlike the Olympics or other sporting events, the World Cup is hosted by a country, not a city. This breeds tremendous national unity, not just provincialism.
Of course Brazil and Argentina wear yellow & green, and blue & white, respectively, because those are the colors of their flags. But why does Italy wear blue? Or the Dutch orange? Or Korea red? Or Australia green & yellow? None of those match their flags! You have to be “in the know” to understand: Blue is the color of Savoy, the ruling house of Italy from 1861 until 1946. Orange stands for William of Orange, the Netherlands’ first prince who ushered in the country’s independence from Spain. RED is an acronym for South Korea’s economy: Resilient, Enthusiastic, Dynamic. And the Wattle tree is the national tree of Australia, which has green leaves and yellow flowers.
If you think that the greatest sports rivalries are Yankees-Red Sox, or Lakers-Celtics, nothing will prepare you for European and Latin American football (Brazil vs. Argentina is almost as intense as you can get).
Sport exposes American individualism. Why are we the only nation in the world that runs on Imperial units instead of Metric, and uses different cell phone technology than the rest of planet Earth, and plays American football instead of soccer? Is it arrogance or apathy or narrowmindedness? However you slice it, it is not good—and this tendency to not play by the rules of the world often gets us in trouble in other arenas, not just sport. Soccer also highlights Americans’ sports ADD (attention deficit disorder): we desire games that score 20-100 points (American football or basketball). But if the final score is 1-0, or a 1-1 draw, that is unbelievably boring to us. This also explains the decline of baseball in America for the same reasons: lower scores and slower pace of game no longer appeal to this ADD generation.
Sport is humorous. I remember in the ’06 World Cup when Germany played Sweden, and the German fans chanted toward the Swedes, “You are nothing but furniture makers!” (think IKEA and you’ll start laughing)”
Last week I gained a new soccer experience: watching a game in a packed-out pub with other U.S. supporters. It was unbelievable. I only hope that we continue to advance and play a weekend game so I can take Jeff to experience the atmosphere and excitement as well. I’d only seen the fan reaction on TV when the cameras cut to a crowded bar, and it is truly exciting to be a part of that atmosphere.
The time difference this year has worked out very well. The games here in EST have been on at 7:30am, 10:00am, and 2:30pm. Sure beats those middle of the night games of 2002 in Japan/Korea! We don’t have cable TV, nor does our internet service provider support ESPN3 (for online live broadcasts… grumble, grumble… that’s another post) so I have been watching many of the games online in Spanish at univision.com.
[Side note: The announcers on Univision are so much more animated when Mexico is playing! They speak too quickly for me to pick out many words, but the emotional difference is obvious.]
I have commentary on the games so far, but I will save that for another time and when group play is done. Tomorrow morning I will be at an Irish pub supporting my country vs. Algeria in their bid to advance to the second round. USA! USA! USA!