Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t have access to any form of communication at all, you will know that the 2014 World Cup is in full swing.
For those of you who are not sports fans, I’ll sum up this work-stopping, life-stopping quadrennial event briefly. 32 national teams will compete for the title. There are three stages of play: group play, playoffs and the final. The 32 teams are split into 8 groups of 4, one or two of which are almost always titled the “Group of Death”, meaning that all 4 teams have a strong chance of advancing to the next stage, thus, all games are crucial. The top 2 teams from each group advance to sudden death playoffs, until we reach our final. Tricksy stuff ensues when you advance from the group stage to playoffs. Teams are awarded points for wins, and ties. If you have the same point total as another team, tiebreakers determine seeding. Ultimately, the more goals you score, the bigger buffer you have in the event of a tiebreaker.
It’s fairly straightforward, but for true non-soccer fans, I say this: take up a hobby for 30 days, because the rest of the planet will be watching the World Cup.
Group play is awesome. There are a generous amount of games (3 daily) for two straight weeks. You get to see powerhouses crash out in a ball of flames, (Yes, I am referring to Spain disappointing everyone, including most sports pundits), little engines that could, (Uruguay! USA! Switzerland!) and perennial heartbreak (England) unfold before our eyes. Even the most passive soccer fans will throw their support behind a national team, based on absolutely nothing more than “I liked their jerseys” or “well, I’m part *blank* nationality, I think?”
In any case, the beautiful game is firmly in the spotlight, and it is glorious. Now, obviously, I am a fan of soccer, I follow the English Premier League and a smattering of club teams throughout the normal year. We should, also note that I am a woman. And as such, World Cup is the female equivalent of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show for us. Listen, I know what you’re thinking, this girl talks about hockey as being her first love and blah blah blah. It is, and always will be. Let’s get real here for a moment though, there are very few, and I mean very few good looking hockey players (who have all of their teeth) in the NHL. Occasionally, pure superficialities beat out superior athleticism.
Now, World Cup-itis as I like to put it, has firmly stuck in my household. I have an American brother in law who was rather crushed at the USMNT defeat last week. (I was not). The real joy though has been reconnecting with friends abroad and near and all having the same topic of discussion. Take, for example, an acquaintance I met in Germany in 2009. He’s Swedish, we met in line at Oktoberfest. Until this summer, we touched base only now and then to see how the other was doing. For some reason, this year, that acquaintance has moved up in rank to good friend, and we have spoken everyday for almost a month now. He is not the only case of this happening. I can guarantee, if it weren’t for the World Cup and a healthy dose of technology, this would not be the case.
I’ve had an on-going argument with an American lately, (not the brother in law), about which sport is more popular on the world stage. Usually I would argue it would be hockey. For a few reasons: more nations than Canada play, it’s gained notoriety in the last few years and it has tournaments on the World level- the World Championships and the Olympics.
I am wrong. Take note of these three words, I will never utter them again. But I am so very wrong. It’s soccer (or football). One-hundred percent it is. It is global, you just need a ball, or something that will move like a ball, and find something to use as a net or goal posts. Bam, you have your equipment if you can move your feet. Sure, it’s not perfect, there is a lot of drama, corruption and diving. At the root of it though, no other sport is played by over half our planet. No other sport can be the harbinger of doom or sheer joy as this. I’m not even Spanish and I was shocked at their ousting. I’ve had a love-affair with Italy and my heart broke a little when they didn’t advance.
World Cup-itis has absolutely settled in. There is no known treatment, we just have to embrace it. Now please excuse me. Half time is over between Netherlands and Argentina, and a team in orange needs my attention.