At one point in the Dylan documentaty “No Direction Home,” I believe it was photographer John Cohen who said, “It may take a lifetime to find out what you truly enjoy.” I’ve been a sports fan for almost 40 years (October 1967 to be exact), and it’s taken me nearly all of it to figure out: I love Soccer. This years World Cup has completely reeled me in, but it was in 2001 when the game first flirted with me. I was in London to celebrate the wedding of my brother and sister-in-law. After a day of art exploration, we found ourselves in a pub around the corner from our flat near Harrods’s department store. There weren’t too many people in there, but for those that were; futbol was on the tele accompanied by an Oasis soundtrack pumping out of the jukebox. I recall being very into the English League game, despite not knowing or caring about either team. The game itself was interesting, and the passion of the fans in the room more so.
On the plane home, I carried a strong curiosity to know more about art, and I did purchase a couple Oasis CD’s, but I left futbol on the isles… Until this year. I’ve watched every game possible in its entirety, including some that I’ve recorded while at work. The game has everything… speed, power and athleticism that approaches magical with some of the best players. Check out this goal by Maxi Rodriguez of Argentina. He “catches” the ball off his chest and before it hits the turf he drills it with his left foot inside the far post of the goal. Players like Rodriguez, Brasil’s Ronaldinho and France’s Zidane work the ball as well as Allen Iverson or Wayne Gretsky handle a basketball or puck, except they do it with their feet. Just imagine trying to juggle while running full speed with someone chasing you trying to kick your balls away. Yeah, just imagine that… The talent level at the World Cup is amazing, and the orb moves around the field like a ping pong ball.
Another great attraction of the game is the spirit of the fans. They go all out dressing in their team colors and spontaneously break into song during games to help motivate their teams. Yeah, there’s some ugly hooliganism and racism creating a blight on the world’s game, but those small pockets are just a microcosm of the worlds societies today. There are jerks everywhere and when they drink too much and attend sporting events, bad things can happen. Speaking of bad things, one little annoying nuance of the game is the tendency of players to “take a dive” in an effort to get fouls called on the competition. Some of these guys are incredible overactors, feigning the pain of a shotgun blast, only to be back up and running moments later.
So, will the US catch up to the rest of the world? I hope so because “futbol” is a beautiful game and may be the social sport thread that weaves the fabric of today’s global economy. US businesspeople can easily talk baseball or football with their US peers, but what do they talk about with international partners? Executives from England, India and China don’t even know who Tom Brady or Peyton Manning are. If you can’t talk about Thierry Henry and Adriano, you may not get into the global “Old Boys Club.” If William Friedman is correct that “The World Is Flat,” then we’d better understand and embrace its game.
As a public service, the remaining World Cup games are:
Jul 5 Portugal v France
Jul 8 Consolation Game
Jul 9 Championship game
Check your local TV listings for times. I’m going with France over Italy in the final.