Friday, June 09, 2006

The World Cup

shirt - Up Up Super Eagles

Originally uploaded by Elron6900.

There are few examples of truly global gatherings, where the entire world not only takes part, but stops and watches as well. Every sport has its 'world championships' but in many cases, those words are more fraud than reality. Take things like the World Series of Baseball, between two American teams in an all North American league.

Even when the world competition is truly global, the reach of the event is in question. World Cup skiing is certainly a global affair, but economy and environment leave many nations off the World Cup ski circuit. Likewise with hockey … even at the World Championships, or the Canada Cup, it is only the hockey world that arrives. The World Championships for track and field comes closest, perhaps, with nearly every nation on earth entering someone to run or jump or throw, but despite the global participation of athletes, track and field simply doesn't generate the excitement to bring the world together.

And then theres the FIFA World Cup. Football is a game played across the globe, and yes, it IS football. The simple fact is, if you call the game soccer, then June 9th is just another Friday to you most likely, and you could care less about the FIFA World Cup. You are also in a global minority. For the rest of the 5.5 billion people who call it football, June 9th 2006 is the start of a month of football fever.

It IS about national rivalries, of that there's no doubt. When I was in Nigeria, the Super Eagles went through their bracket in the 1994 World Cup, almost making it through to the quarter finals before finally losing to Italy, and the national energy in Nigeria was amazing. As a Canadian, I'd never really experienced a World Cup before, but after Lagos in 1994, I have a small understanding of the frenzy that happens every 4 years, and it was in Lagos that I got a real look at WHY it is the only truly global sporting event, both in terms of participation and reach.

Football is a game that can be played by anyone, anywhere. All you need is a ball and open space … and that's true no matter WHAT level of the sport you play at. Even at the World Cup level, you may have exceptional coaching, you may have genius players, you may have time-proven strategy, but its still just 22 guys kicking a ball around a big field. The reason the appeal is universal is the cost of entry to the game is so small.

For the record, my allegiances are with Poland and England … if they both get bounced, I dunno who I support after that, but lets not go there, lol. But the reality is, its more about the tournament for me than the play … I don't even know that much about the game itself. But especially in a place like Canada, I love to see how it brings people together.


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