We’re in full swing now. Kick off was on Thursday, we’ve already had a major upset, and everyone is gradually tuning in.
But why should we care about the World Cup?
It’s quite simple really; a very large proportion of the world watches this single event, and participates in one manner or another, therefore it is the closest thing we have to the concept of world peace. Hefty claim, I know, saying that a sports competition is the most constructive diplomatic tool we have in this 21st century, but it is. Let me take you on a journey through the logic:
First of all, you could damn near say that the whole entire world watches the World Cup. Not literally, because of the variances in living standards, but when it comes to the digitally connected population of Earth, it’s closer to everyone. Soccer, or football – as the rest of the world calls it, is definitively the most popular sport on Earth (most watched, most played, most fans), and the World Cup is the most watched event with an estimate of 700 million people who viewed the final in 2010. My point here, is that events like these unite populations, the citizens. The people who quietly live their every day lives, and whose attitudes affect the way nations interact with each other. Here’s the thing, there are a lot more citizens then there are authorities (politicians, representatives, monarchs, authoritarians, etc.). So if a month long event is capable of educating its audience about other nations or at least providing exposure to the other participating countries, and changing people’s attitudes toward them, even just a little bit, that makes it all worth it. Truth be told, I am rooting for maybe 4 teams in this single competition (and if Poland had qualified, the number would be 5).
If nations can play fairly together, just like little kids on the playground, they can work together more constructively. It’s incredible sometimes, to see how the players interact with each other. Sure, they want to demolish their opposition on the pitch, but all that animosity is left on the field, because these players are, more often than not, friends. They play on the same teams throughout Europe and there is visible affection when they line up before entering the stadium, throughout the match, and when it’s over. It’s adorable and slightly astounding to watch, but I am quite sensitive that way. My father would say something when I first started watching, to really exemplify why soccer has such profound relevance, he would say that in Europe, football replaced war.
Also, it’s a “beautiful game.” Though it’s not for everyone, I realize. But please, take a look (poor sound quality, just mute it):
What some of these guys are capable of is astounding. If an hour and a half is too long to watch a few guys run around a grass field, only scoring once or twice, just not providing enough excitement, I get it. It takes the accustomed eye to notice the intricacies and breathtaking possibilities, and once you’re able to recognize them, it’s an incredible pleasure to watch.
Spain, by the way (dudes with the white kits in the first video), is one of the teams I am rooting for. That country is home to the marvel that is FC (football club) Barcelona (dudes in the second video). These are the guys who first got me invested in soccer and they’re the only team I really watch, though I follow their season “religiously”. Acknowledging the fact that the Spanish national team is composed of nearly a third of FC Barcelona players (7 out of 23), my aspirations for this team are very understandable. Hopefully they can get their sh*t together and get their game back on the number 1 ranking level, because that 1-5 clobbering they got from the Netherlands yesterday was just painful to watch. It was top notch football on the Dutch team’s part, but a really sad sight for a Spain fan. Then of course, I’ll be keeping a close eye on how my boys from the U.S. will be doing, because if we can advance far in this competition, soccer has the potential to gain a stronger fan base in the U.S. (and we’ll get on the same page as the rest of the world)! Then there’s Brazil, they have been the most successful country in the World Cup’s history, and seeing as how they are hosting this year, you just naturally want to see them win the trophy. Finally, there’s Argentina. Lionel Messi is incredible, and he’s built his fame in FC Barcelona. He’s one of the best ever, and if he can win the cup with his team for Argentina he will get even closer to the legacy of THE best ever.
Now I’m not saying that we must all become diehard soccer fans, goodness knows I am hardly so. I don’t really watch any other soccer matches besides what Barcelona is up to, and I very likely will be missing most of the matches for this World Cup. What I am trying to communicate is this: Let us recognize what is going on in Brazil right now, this event that knocks on our doors every 4 years, it’s revolutionary in humanity’s history and it deserves respect and admiration.
p.s. There is a lot more to international football than what is alluded to here. For the purpose of casual consumption, I have laid out all that you need to know. Just keep in mind, that it is an industry. One where the players are rewarded extremely well for their performance and one that is just chock full of corrupt governing officials. For example, I am glossing over a lot of the twisted mess that FIFA brings about as a result of the World Cup events, so let it be known that we could make soccer even more constructive: