by: Sydney Smith
I am going to preface this column with this:
Am I a soccer fan? Not so much, but, I am a World Cup fan.
Every four years the best soccer teams from around the globe come together at the FIFA World Cup and compete to be the best.
Sixty-four games, 32 teams and one month all combine to bring us the greatest event in sports.
In order to qualify, over 200 teams from six different continents compete for the available spots. If that isn’t global, I don’t know what is.
It is literally the tournament of tournaments.
Even though soccer is not a huge deal in the United States, globally soccer is THE sport.
There are flags waving, ¡Olé! cheering, crazy, passionate fans around the world that live and die by how their team does in the World Cup.
Aside from the Olympics, the World Cup is the largest team-sporting event set on a world stage.
According to fifa.com the 2010 World Cup South Africa was broadcast in every country and territory on the globe, including Antarctica and the Arctic Circle. This led to record-breaking television viewing percentages with 46.4 per cent of the world’s population tuning in to the coverage.
I don’t know about anyone else but that is pretty dang impressive.
Almost half the world tuning in for one sporting event? That is insane.
I can’t imagine half the world watching the Master’s, NBA Finals, Opening Day or the kickoff of college football season. Yet, they all tune in to watch 90 minutes of soccer.
The FIFA World Cup is THE culmination of international soccer.
Fans get to see the top athletes in the sport all in one place. Not only are they watching all of these stars play, they are seeing them compete at the highest level of their sport.
The world cup provides a showcase for great athletes, but it also brings several different cultures, races, tribes and creeds together in one place. Outside of the Olympics, I can’t think of another event that does this on such a large scale.
While wars are being fought and conflict affecting nearly every corner of the world, the World Cup brings together people from all of these nations for one event that provides solace from the mayhem.
Even though all of that is great and wonderful I would have to say that what makes the World Cup the best of the best is the fans.
For them this is life and death. They eat, sleep and breathe World Cup soccer for the one-month every four years they get to experience it.
The passion of these fans is unparalleled. Growing up a Red Sox fan I understand passionate fans. Boston is full of them, but this is different. It is suffocating. It is all consuming and it could very much be considered the end of the world if your team loses.
Winners are on the highest of highs while losers are completely devastated.
Emotions such as these are often reserved for the athlete themselves, but with World Cup soccer it is entirely different. The pain or exuberance is extended to the true fans as well as the casual viewer.
In 1999 I watched the U.S. women’s team win the World Cup. I was eight years old, but will never forget watching Mia Hamm play, Braina Scurry block the Chinese penalty kick and, most of all, Brandi Chastain’s celebration that has become one of the most iconic images in sports.
The 1999 women’s team ignited the United States.
Every four years the World Cup ignites soccer fans around the world and causes a spectacle unparalleled in all of sports.