World Cup Fever!

Are you ready for some futbol? (FIFA/Brazil)

Later today, the largest single sporting event on Earth will kick off: the World Cup. And I, for one, could not be more excited—despite living in America, the country that seems least interested in what we call soccer, but the world refers to as football (or fútbol, depending on where you come from). Game one between host country Brazil and Croatia is set to begin this afternoon… and I know for a fact that millions of people around the world are just as anxious to see some world-class soccer as I am.

When I was a child, I played soccer as part of our city league, but I cared more about socializing with friends than actually learning and enjoying the sport. Part of this had to do with my unusually large size, which doomed me to defensive positions, primarily as a fullback. Smaller, faster kids played offense, so the excitement of scoring goals was never part of my experience. Instead, I was instructed to block attacking players at all costs and to sacrifice my body if necessary—which essentially meant I took lots of shots to the face and kicks to the shins. And if goals were scored on my end, it was because I failed in my responsibilities and the opposing team scored.

As you might imagine, this took a lot of fun out of soccer for me, so I never pursued it in later life.

Messi of Argentina (PinIt)

Fortunately, I never lost interest in the sport itself, especially since my father and everyone on his side of the family came from Argentina. What my American relatives lacked in soccer enthusiasm was easily offset by my South American relatives, in other words, so I soon came to love soccer and especially enjoyed World Cup competition. Granted, I was slightly put-off by the four-year gap between World Cups, but now it only serves to grow my excitement and anticipation. I even had a chance to see some World Cup games when the tournament came to America in 1994, and that is an experience I won’t soon forget.

Now it’s 2014 and time for another World Cup, this one from Brazil. Argentina may be my favorite team, but I also love Brazil because South America is my favorite soccer continent. There is so much talent there—from Messi in Argentina and Neymar in Brazil to Suárez in Uruguay and Sánchez in Chile—so I know this will be an exciting contest. I only hope Argentina can pull it out. At least they have the Pope on their side!

By now, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned my own national team from the United States. Simple: people here don’t care about soccer as much as they do American sports, especially football and baseball. This bothers me since soccer is universal. Nearly every country in the developed world plays it, yet America still refuses to “get on board.” Sure, we perform well from time to time, but we’ll never be a powerhouse like Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Germany or Italy until we truly take the sport seriously—and this certainly doesn’t seem as if it will be America’s breakout year.

Donovan, formerly of the US national team (People)

As you’ve likely heard, U.S. soccer coach and one-time German soccer villain Jurgen Klinsmann made the controversial decision to omit Landon Donovan from his roster, despite Donovan being the most decorated player in American soccer history. Klinsmann also made some rather unpopular comments with regard to the U.S. team’s chances in this World Cup: “For us now talking about winning a World Cup, it is just not realistic.” He may be right—and this could simply be a way for him to help motivate his “underdogs”—but his comments rubbed a lot of Americans the wrong way.

Kind of odd since most Americans could care less about soccer, but whatever.

At any rate, I can hardly wait to watch Brazil and Croatia square off later. And there are some exciting matchups to come, including Spain/Netherlands on Friday—a rematch of the 2010 Cup final, which Spain won—and England/Italy on Saturday. It should be a great month of fútbol, so put on your colors, leave your annoying South African vuvuzelas behind and get ready for the pinnacle of international athletic competitions: the 2014 World Cup!

Viva Argentina!

Posted on June 12, 2014, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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