I’m a huge soccer fan.
I’m moreso, admittedly, every four years when the Cup rolls around.
In between I have a hard time following leagues that aren’t on the continent I live on, and as such can’t claim to be a rabid supporter year round.
I kind of can’t think of much else during the Cup though; I feel a nested responsibility to witness the 20 or so World Cups that will occur during my lifetime (assuming I make it that long, obviously). There simply isn’t another sporting event that comes even close to being what I want out of a sporting event.
Soccer’s a game that people have a hard time with, especially in America.
Okay, only in America.
Everyone else seems to get it.
Anyway, I don’t have a problem with that. I kind of loved being a soccer player because it was like being in on something that everyone else might eventually realize. Growing up the football team and the basketball team competed over who was cooler. The baseball team just loved themselves enough for all of us.
The soccer guys didn’t really care; in the Midwest you’re in the world that got soccer last. They grew up on baseball. They go nuts for college football.
Then every four years the World Cup happened and everyone talked about soccer for four weeks. It even rolled through the US and everyone wondered if the sport would take over.
At which point the professional league in this country expanded enough to nearly kill itself.
Because I was playing, I saw what everyone around the world sees when they live and breath and dream soccer year in a year out.
A game anyone could play. A game happening in ghettos in Brazil with bare feet and balls of cloth, which fueled one of the most beautiful versions of the game ever known.
A game so demanding of body and mind that a goal matter enough to be remembered forever.
A game that’s spawned war and stopped wars. A game that entertains and influences…draws loyalty lines and brings enemies across them.
A legion of support that so rarely happens in other sports; something so far from entertainment that you almost wouldn’t recognize it as even fun. Support for corners of the soccer world looks more a lifestyle than anything else.
And then you get the World Cup; the largest athletic stage this planet has ever known.
Everything truly beautiful, ugly, friendly and hateful about a game I consider at its core to be the closest competition gets to illustrating humanity.
Today was one of those days that makes the three and half years I spend waiting for the next World Cup worth it.