It only comes around every four years, and when it does, I’m addicted. The World Cup, taking place right now in Brazil and broadcast all over ESPN’s television and radio channels, is a can’t miss event for me.
From the time I was old enough to put on a pair of cleats, into my college years, I played soccer, commonly referred to as the “beautiful game” outside the U.S.
While my personal play could never be described as “beautiful,” it was by far the most fun sport to play as a kid and one I miss to this day.
For whatever reason, the game has never taken hold with the American viewing public despite it being the second most popular sport among youth age 6-18
to play in the country. A Wall Street Journal survey showed that only basketball edged soccer, and by a very small margin, as the sport with the most participation in the United States.
The beauty of soccer is that the game is great for all skill levels as a child, while the athleticism on display at the highest levels is often stunning.
Soccer requires incredible coordination, endurance, speed, strength, agility, and determination.
If you haven’t seen the goal scored by Robin van Persie of the Netherlands during the 5-1 Dutch win over defending champion Spain, you should Google it.
The 50-yard center pass from the Dutch midfielder Daley Blind was magnificent in itself. Imagine running at full speed, dribbling a ball with your feet, and having to kick it 50 yards in the air to a specific spot. Blind boots a precise cross and Van Persie times it perfectly diving through the air delivering a remarkable header that sails just over the leaping goalkeeper’s outstretched hands into the back of the net.
If you can’t appreciate the athleticism, enjoy the lack of interruption World Cup games provide. Soccer is played in two halves of 45 minutes with a running clock. There are no timeouts, no commercial breaks, no annoying sideline reporters, just 45 minutes of uniterrupted soccer, or futbol for the diehards, of which outside of myself and Javier Carrasco at Vera Cruz restaurant in Bruce there may be no others in Calhoun County. Javier, who grew up with the game, played professionally in Mexico for many years.
“We played soccer every day as much as possible,” Carrasco said in a story I did with him several years ago. “I’ve always loved soccer. It’s such a fun game.”
No one appreciates a great touchdown pass, home run or clutch three pointer more than me, but nothing can compare to the fervor of a goal in the World Cup (and goals have been coming at record pace in this year’s matches in Brazil).
The emotion pours through the television screen with every goal. I can only imagine the feeling in the stadium.
The impact of this year’s World Cup here at home will undoubtedly hinge on the success or failure of the U.S. team. Hard to top the thrilling 2-1 U.S. win over Ghana Monday evening.
The soccer will only get tougher, and more “beautiful” going forward.
Email Joel McNeece at firstname.lastname@example.org & follow him on Twitter @joelmcneece