As a true, purebred American, I know my country’s place in the sports world. We do football, we do basketball, we do baseball. We even mix a little tennis and golf in there from time to time. And hey, around Olympics time if our own countrymen overwhelmingly excel at a sport that is not so much our thing, say swimming or even hockey, then we will get behind our comrades in full force. But then there is soccer, which in the good old US of A is not exactly our cup of tea.
For one, our nation’s record in the sport is not so impressive. With only 9 World Cup appearances since 1930 we haven’t had a whole lot to work with. Not to mention that in those 9 appearances the furthest we’ve managed to reach is third place.
I mean come on, we don’t even call it by what the rest of the world would consider to be its proper name. Football for us equates with pigskin, not rubber. A pretty good example I would say, of our seclusion from this sport that the majority of the world is so enamored with.
So here I am, an American. A veritable soccer outcast. And I’ve decided to travel quite far away from my little Indiana town and attend what is the biggest, most important event in the soccer world. The 2010 Fifa World Cup. What am I thinking?
Well, there are a lot of reasons why attending this event is one of the major items on my very long and ambitious bucket list. One of those reasons is that the international obsession with this game, soccer, is really fascinating to me.
I am the girl that will spend an entire Sunday in October with my eyes glued to the TV enthusiastically watching NFL football. And then there’s Thursday and Sunday nights, plus college football on Saturdays of course.
I am definitely a sports girl, always have been and always will be. I truly understand how following your favorite team can be like a religion, and I get that with all of my country’s most beloved games.
But soccer? I have never been able to understand how watching players run up and down the field for 90 minutes just to have the game end in a tie can be entertaining, let alone a religious experience. Yet, for much of the world it is. So I’ve decided to go in with an open mind and desperately try to learn what the bug fuss over this mystical game is all about.
And then there’s this other thing about the World Cup, maybe the most notable, and that is the overwhelming sense of national pride that is associated with it.
If you search World Cup images on the Internet you are sure to find numerous pictures of people draped in their country’s flag, painted head to toe, and completely decked out in any ridiculous apparel that will portray their national colors. These people travel from all over the world to support their nation and feverishly cheer on their beloved soccer team.
I can’t help being excited by the thought of these fervently dedicated antics. It reminds me of another favorite international event of mine, the Olympics, except more concentrated as there is only one sport and one team for us each to cheer for. All of this eager excitement is directed towards these single, enormously important, do-or-die matches that the world watches in nervous and energized anticipation.
For these World Cup spectators that travel from afar their own nations reign supreme, and they cheer their hearts out for their beloved homeland. Being around this kind of passion is extremely invigorating to me and I am dying to go be at the heart of this hectic madness.
And let’s be honest, this year’s host nation has more than a little to do with my enthusiasm for this particular World Cup.
South Africa. Just the name brings a smile to my face and a warm feeling to my heart. I fell in love with this magnificent country when I paid it a short visit on my around the world adventure last year. The people, the landscape, and the culture are all unbelievable and the overall atmosphere completely sucked me in during those five amazing days.
To feel happy, content, and at home in a foreign place is rare, and I knew that South Africa would always hold a special place in my heart. I have been dying to go back ever since. This World Cup offers me a wonderful chance to do just that.
But when it comes down to it, the biggest thing attracting me to this event is that it isn’t just about soccer or national pride or the amazing country that its being held in, it’s about the world. At this single event, if even for just a moment, people of nations from across the globe can forget about their political, economic, social and cultural differences and unite over a common goal. A sporting event that brings the world together is pretty powerful stuff if you ask me.
So I’m boarding that 16-hour flight to my beloved South Africa and I’m jumping head first into the world of international soccer fanaticism. World Cup 2010, here I come.