With some exceptions, Americans generally have the same beef with soccer: “nothing happens.” Despite having played the sport for some six years, I too was one of the naysayers. Like my father, I joined the ranks of college football fans. But only college.
College football was where all the excitement happened. As non-professionals, players are apt to make any number of blunders that could change the fate of a game in the time it takes you to refill your salsa bowl. Additionally, the stakes are different: these guys play for heart rather than the Benjamins.
In my rookie estimation, soccer lacked this flare of passion. So when the World Cup rolled around last year, I rolled my eyes. Nevertheless, lured by cold beer and a day wasted in front of the TV, I yielded. Much to my surprise (and embarrassment), I became an instant World Cup junkie tuning in to nearly every game to get my fix. In soccer, I had finally found my college football: not pro, but national.
Any sport can be boring until you find that certain pizazz and in soccer, it’s citizen pride and bragging rights. Blind to skin tone, dark histories and economic failures, the World Cup is a global playing field where the world’s metaphorical “losing” countries have a shot at being winners.
And if we look at teams like Brazil or France, it’s easy to see how this goes down on a smaller scale. Ethnicities and social backgrounds are thrown to the wayside in the name of winning. It helps societies integrate. Even Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary General, has said, “ september, 2018