Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup Soccer: Nations Closer, at Least for a While

The World Cup of Soccer is a quadrennial event which draws billions of viewers worldwide for one month, for one thing. While a universal tournament like this may bring out countrys patriotism, political differences, and some hooliganism, it still unites the world in a way that few if any other event does to the same degree.
The FIFA World Cup Soccer (or "football", as Europeans call it) tournament is interesting not only because the greatest soccer players play to their highest potential, it is interesting because it is the most highly regarded single sport in the world, which links the world together through a common passion for the beautiful game, soccer ( Brazilian great Pelé coined the phrase). That is, it brings diverse peoples together in not just the physical gathering in venues across Germany, but also mentally, in the sense that people around the world have something in common. They have a love of this particular type of skill, an appreciation for individual players' attempts to reach the pinnacle of their God given abilities.

Winning the world cup is huge. It is to the winning country, what winning the Stanley Cup is to any professional hockey player. The live telecast of World Cup soccer is like watching the best mathematicians compete to solve a difficult problem the fastest, the best chess players, scrabble olympians, computer programmers, or 100 metre dash athletes, concentrate their mental, and physical energies to the greatest extent they can, to culminate in their most ultimate efforts.

For many players the World Cup of Soccer is the actual apex of their personal potential.
This event is possibly bigger than the Olympics. The Olympics draws billions of viewers, but for many different sporting events. The FIFA World Cup of Soccer tournament only has one, so you know that others around the world are tuning in to the same thing. As you watch a player's dazzling footwork skill or his clever moves, or quick intelligent thinking, you can imagine that others anywhere on the globe are often thinking the same thing, "wow, that move, that shot, that setup is clever, what a brilliant play!"

In a world where cultural, religious, political, race, and language differences too often build walls to communication and understanding, diverse peoples can mentally connect through a like appreciation or love of soccer. At a time where the daily news is filled with what seems like increasing tensions, hatred, violence and a distancing of mutual understandings, it is refreshing to see different peoples of the world share a common passion.

Language or culture is irrelevant when people see a smart play, they can mentally connect with the same expression of awe, wonderment, or disappointment - be on the "same page". This non-verbal knowingness is important because it allows an empathy or beginning of one between groups. Instead of walls, there are mental bridges built by means of a common love of soccer. In a world of wide ranging mindsets and terrorist extremism, world cup soccer is one of many commonalities that various peoples of the world share. For a short time, it may create a bond we wish existed in all realms of humanity - a mental or spiritual connectiveness with others in the world, through a universally loved recreation.

When the 2002 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) world cup soccer was held in Korea/Japan, there were a watched cumulative total of 30 billion viewers, with 1 billion for the final between Brazil and Germany. There are 32 teams from 6 continents in the present tournament. More people are expected to watch this time because of the time zone it is happening from. Canada is not a competitor but one can still vicariously experience the thrill and excitement felt by those whose country just won a game, and the world cup.

Perhaps by 2010, there could be a Canadian team, or Newfoundland & Labrador player(s) actually in the competition. We certainly have alot of soccer talent, especially from the remarkable town of St. Lawrence, home of the Laurentians. But for now I am content to watch many evenly matched teams compete for the glory and the pride they will bring to their countries. Will it be Brazil, Holland, Iran, South Korea or one of the African nations this year? Where games are often won by one goal, it could be a surprise. It would be great to see an underdog win. In any event, it's interesting to see the pride and excitement of players and fans from around the world. If you're a fan, I'm sure you'll enjoy.

(for updates and scores, visit the official FIFA site)