May 27, 2010

World Cup 101. ~ Jeffrey Platts

What’s the big deal about the World Cup?

It’s just a soccer tournament, right?

Well, imagine the pageantry of Super Bowl, the unpredictability of March Madness and the connective spirit of the Olympics—all combined into one huge global event.

Come Together

For me, the World Cup is a beautiful demonstration of fierce competition and celebratory fellowship.

Yes, the Italians hate the French.  Sure, Brazil and Argentina will always be to-the-death rivals.  But if, heaven forbid, your team gets eliminated, you will likely, after a few days of mourning and expletives, pick your next favorite team and get behind them. Maybe Argentina beat you—so you now root for whoever they play against. Perhaps your grandfather is from Sheffield, so after a Germany knockout, you put your money and heart on England.  Or maybe no matter what, you always go for the European team.

Of course, if you’re from New Zealand, you probably already have your backup team picked out.

Celebrate Your Roots

The World Cup is a chance to let your heritage come out to play.

My loyalties have always been divided, as my mom is from Brazil and my dad is American.  When I was a kid, it was always easy to root for Brazil.

I have vivid memories of going to Brazil during the ’94 Cup.  Brazil hadn’t lifted the World Cup trophy since 1970, an unacceptable 24 year drought.  The U.S. was the first-time host that year so I caught Brazil/Sweden match in Detroit and the next day flew to Brazil to spend the summer with my family.

The next game was U.S./Brazil on July 4th, of all days. This was a “sweet sixteen” match, and after the 1-0 win, the small city of João Pessoa went totally nuts.  The streets along the beach were closed and thousands of people danced, sang and flirted in the streets all night.

And that happened after every single game. After Brazil won the final against Italy, the team toured several major cities for a huge ticker tape parade with hundreds of thousands of fans celebrating as the entire world champion team rolled by.  Best. Party. Ever.

That said, my passion for the U.S. team has been on the rise.  After reaching the quarterfinals in 2002, tying Italy in the 2006 World Cup and beating #1 ranked Spain last year, the U.S. squad has earned more respect these days.  And in last year’s Confederations Cup Final, Los Gringos went up 2-0 against Brazil in the first half before the Seleção staged a 3-goal comeback.

Not too shabby for hanging with the big boys.

The Match-Ups

I also love the history, politics and geography that are weaved into these games.

This year’s World Cup has some amazing matchups: Argentina vs. Nigeria (a 2 time world champion vs. one of Africa’s emerging powers, June 12), Mexico vs. South Africa (the opening match with the host against the always fiesty Latin squad, June 11).

The first round features two great colony vs. motherland matchups: U.S. vs. England (June 12) and Brazil vs. Portugal (June 25).  The fun part about these two games is that all the teams in this one actually have a decent shot at winning.  Of course, once the tournament hits the knockout phase, that’s when the real magic starts.  One loss and you and your countrymen wait four more years.

Art and Culture on the Field

The World Cup is a showcase of the artistry and athleticism of the world’s best players as they show off their brilliant juggles, kicks and speed.

It takes just one lucky breakaway or a perfectly placed corner kick to shift the momentum and fate of the game.  You also see the culture of each country shine through the players on the field and supporters in the stands.  The playful, samba-like moves of the Brazilian Seleção. The steady, physical play of the Germans.  The intense heart and passion of the English squad.

Not to mention the sense of fair play and good sportsmanship that triumphs no matter what the score.

Well…almost always. See Zenadine Zidane and Marco Materazzi.


For you elephant readers, here is another great reason:  45 minutes of uninterrupted action.  There are no commercial breaks in soccer/futbol except for halftime. Try finding another sport on TV with two 45 minute periods of non-stop play.

So grab a microbrew and get your mindfulness on.

June 11 to July 11.  Join the party.  It’s intoxicating.

Official Site
TV Schedule (ESPN)

Jeffrey Platts is passionate about helping people connect more authentically and follow their own groove, in life and in love. He shares soulful and practical observations on dating, life, spirituality, sex and relationships. Jeffrey mixes his own personal experiences and insights from his life as a yoga teacher, DJ and student of spirituality and personal growth.  Visit Jeffrey on Twitter or his blog.

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