Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cup Fever

Hola, Olá, Hallo, Bonjour, こんにちは, Γεια σας, Ciao, Hello and welcome to South Africa 2010 World Cup. For you speaking el español, Bienvenidos a La Copa Mundial del 2010. Every four years, the world's best teams come together to play the world's sport, soccer? Futbol rather. Futebol to you in Portugal and Brazil. Yes, that sport, the sport in any country beyond the borders of Yanquilandia.

I find myself watching a World Cup game at 8am between two teams I could care less about four years ago, South Korea vs. Uruguay. I begin to wonder how the hell this passion came about with each dribble and pass on the fresh South African 'pitch'. One word, one country, one team... La Albicleste (Sky blue & white), Argentina. Growing up in the United States of America, I found my passion in American Football, baseball, wrestling and basketball. All of these sports have international participation as well. However, futbol is on another level in most every other country.

Just ask Les Bleus of France, a team that was runner-up four years ago. This year, cheated their way into the World Cup and absolutely fell apart since they arrived in South Africa, now it has become a political issue in Paris. What about Italy? The defending champions showed some age and were forced to say ciao earlier than the Azzurri following would have liked by Slovakia, a country in its first Cup since being an independent nation. The fans at home in Italy are known for greeting their team rather shrewdly and rudely upon a return of failure to meet expectations. This is what people wait 4 years for in these countries. North Korea made its first appearance on the national stage since 1966, they failed to win a game but showed a lot of heart on the international stage. Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands are the favorites of the remaining teams, yet Paraguay and Uruguay have yet to lose and also look promising. In fact, all 5 South American teams to enter the World Cup are still alive and continue to advance.... until tomorrow that is when Chile tries to upset Brazil, buena suerte Chle!

What about the United States of America soccer team? Just another team to show a ton of heart and determination on the world stage, yet were clearly outclassed by a physically superior Ghanaian team. I was criticized by a friend for not being that upset of the USA loss. I was even happy for Ghana, unpatriotic? You call it, when I'm sitting next to several people in the bar making fun of the sport and the uniforms they wear during the game, why should the US deserve to win the World Cup? Would a World Cup victory be more nationally appreciated in the USA or in Ghana, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Holland, etc?

Regardless, why should I be criticized for being more of an Argentine futbol follower than a US soccer follower? I didn't learn the beauty of the sport until I was clearly outclassed trying to play with South Americans at 'their sport'. I learned the passion when I spoke with fans of Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany and Italy and felt the energy they carried for the Cup and the sport in general. I've since been intrigued by the passion all of my international friends have for this time of year and the performance of their respective country. Hats off to the USA team for their effort and the heart they showed and the passion of the sport they brought to this country. In the end, the USA is a country of many sports, many stars and many titles. The other countries are of one sport, one star and one title.. until four years from now... World Cup fever!