Loving Football – Catching Brazil’s World Cup Fever

brazilian-soccer-fans-commemorating-group-happy-victory-flag-background-34849799Born in the U.S.A., the only football I knew growing up was the one where men wearing girdles wrestled over an oval pigskin on the gridiron in a sport that excluded girls. The game Americans refer to as soccer and the rest of the world calls football was not popular in the States.

But when I moved abroad, I fell in love with the other football. My German basketball club teammates taught me how to play. I loved chasing the round ball down an open field as my appreciation and understanding of the game evolved. In international schools where I worked, I even officiated PE class games where students “explained” in no uncertain terms how to call offside.

Whether I was living in France, Germany or Switzerland, once every four years, the planet stopped spinning on its axis during the World Cup Football Championship. Shops close early, giant screens light up, and riots break out as world cup frenzy hits the streets. In Switzerland roadways are blocked because the game is on the big screen in Geneva’s central square, in France traffic halts for merrymakers spilling onto the Champs-Elysées and in Germany a 100,000 fans erupt in joy by the Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.football fans

With 3.3 -3.5 billion fans and played by 250 million players around the globe, football is the world’s most popular sport. Requiring virtually no equipment, football can be played anywhere from the favellas of Rio de Janeiro to the slums of India.

At its inception in 1930, the 1st world cup, held in Uruguay, included only 13 invited teams. Today, teams battle across every continent to qualify for the 32-team tournament.

National victories become political statements reflecting global tensions. The World Cup was not held in 1942 during WWII or in its devastating aftermath in 1946.The 1954 world cup, held in Switzerland, was the first to be televised, which brought unprecedented marketing opportunities.

Brazil estimates to bring home $11 billion from 600,000 tourists and 3 million Brazilians in attendance, however financial experts are skeptical. South Africa showed a reverse effect where countries are harmed economically from hosting the event. Brazil’s hosting has been controversial from the get go with protests breaking out daily. Should a country with such a great poverty level be hosting a billion dollar event making stadiums that cost hundreds of million dollars?

As with any sporting event involving big bucks, controversy follows suit. Rumors of official bribes and FIFAs questionable tactics abound. And for the first time ever, a player was suspended for biting an opponent when in the heat of battle Uruguay’s Louis Suarez chomped down on the shoulder his Italian opponent. Seriously?

National pride escalates with each victory, boosting ratings of the leadership in countries that advance to the next round. Team affinity becomes extreme, but with my own personal ties to several countries, I am content when USA, France, Germany, Switzerland, or any Scandinavian country wins. Though I would never admit to my French family, I was the only one who wasn’t too disappointed when France lost to Germany in the quarterfinals. With fond memories of my time in living in Marburg, I still feel loyalty to the country that once hosted me.

With youth soccer clubs booming, I am tickled to see that America finally caught the football bug. Germany's Mueller challenges goalkeeper Howard of the U.S. during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Pernambuco arena in RecifeUSA advancement to the final sixteen and goalie Tim Howard’s stellar performance versus Belgium put USA on the map in world football scene.

Politics, money and fan violence aside, football at its purest level, is good, clean fun. During the tournament, boys and girls around the globe fill sandlots, dead end streets, and empty fields, running around, kicking balls, juggling their own World Cup dreams.

Posted in family, humor, inspiration, social view, sport, travel.

12 Comments

  1. Yes, Pat, World Cup fever has prevailed over our week at the lake house with grandsons Jacob (9) and Ethan (7) staging several games,even writing up tickets, setting up lawn chairs under the maple tree for their rabid fans and dutifully marking down the scores of the real games on a poster -size tournament chart taped to the wall.They even got my mom, “GiGi” all revved up. What fun!

    • Priceless, Kathy. I can just picture your grandsons staging their own world cup games at the lake. When Nat was younger she organized a mini Olympics for her cousins at our cabin. It is so great to know that children can still play on their own and invent fun. Lakes bring out the kid in all of us. I hope you took lots of photos.

  2. Yes, Pat, World Cup fever has prevailed over our week at the lake house with grandsons Jacob (9) and Ethan (7) staging several games,even writing up tickets, setting up lawn chairs under the maple tree for their rabid fans and dutifully marking down the scores of the real games on a poster -size tournament chart taped to the wall.They even got my mom, “GiGi” all revved up. What fun!

  3. My son played soccer from middle school age on. And loved it! I must confess, those early cold mornings shivering under layers of warm clothing watching his teams play were less than appealing to me, though. At any rate, he developed an appreciation of the sport (and it was awesome seeing the girls give just as much effort as their teammates!) It really takes someone in GOOD physical condition to play a game with nonstop running!!

    • My son played soccer when he was younger, but then basketball took over. Naturally I was not disappointed. Although I have learned to like soccer, I am glad that my kids chose an indoor sport, so I could stay warm and dry. Both my nieces played soccer and one even played rugby. As you well know, sports are great for girls, too.

  4. I cannot say I am a huge soccer fan but I am a fan of anything USA so I watched their games.
    The thought of the scandals, cheating and drugs involved in all professional sports and government for that matter makes my head spin. I know it exists but have no idea how to stop it, so frustrating.

    • I, too, enjoyed watching USA play. The scandals surrounding sport are deplorable and unfortunately I have no idea how to stop it in the big time games, but I do my best at the ground roots level to teach and exemplify sportsmanship in working with the high school athletes that I coach.

  5. I cannot say I am a huge soccer fan but I am a fan of anything USA so I watched their games.
    The thought of the scandals, cheating and drugs involved in all professional sports and government for that matter makes my head spin. I know it exists but have no idea how to stop it, so frustrating.

    • I, too, enjoyed watching USA play. The scandals surrounding sport are deplorable and unfortunately I have no idea how to stop it in the big time games, but I do my best at the ground roots level to teach and exemplify sportsmanship in working with the high school athletes that I coach.

  6. I confess to not being knowledgeable about soccer, but I can’t help but feel the excitement of the World Cup. USA had a splendid run and now I’m cheering on Brazil, birthplace of my future daughter-in-law!

    • Splendid, indeed, and Howard set a new World Cup record with his 15 saves in the game vs. Belgium. A Brazilian daughter-in-law is wonderful. I can’t think of any better reason to cheer for Brazil.

  7. I confess to not being knowledgeable about soccer, but I can’t help but feel the excitement of the World Cup. USA had a splendid run and now I’m cheering on Brazil, birthplace of my future daughter-in-law!

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