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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Fiebre del Fútbol

Thank God for the Hispanic community in the US. Without them this World Cup would have been such a disappointment. It is surprising that most Americans don't even know what the Fifa World Cup is. It is the biggest sporting event in the world. Yes, even bigger than the Olympics. The Superbowl is peanuts compared to it. 93 Million People watched the Superbowl this year, compared with 1.1 billion who saw the last World Cup final in 2002, that's one in every six person in the world. Estimates indicate that 28.8 billion viewers will watch the month long tournament this year.

But the growth of soccer in the US has been very slow. Yes you do see school kids playing soccer, now more than ever before, even the national men's and women's team have been progressing well internationally, but the game's popularity hasn't increased much for the general public. After the successes of the US team in the 2002 World Cup, I am hoping that there will be more interest this time around.

Although I have always been a Brazil fan since a very young age, I found a new team to support in 2002. I sat through and watched the unbelievable as USA beat Portugal and made it through to the second round. I watched the team at its best as they defeated their arch-rivals, Mexico. And I missed a heartbeat a couple of times in the very exciting 1-0 quarter final loss to Germany. Despite the loss, TeamUSA could walk off with their heads held high. Not only had they done what no one believed they could do, they had also shown the world that they were there to stay. This World Cup, even though the draw is tougher, TeamUSA has a world class team. And with the foundation in place with the MLS, and so many players playing in Europe, USA will continue to be dominant in future World Cups.

The 2002 World Cup was very different for me. It was the first time I was watching the World Cup in the US and it was surreal not to see the hype around it. Watching the matches didn't seem to be much of a problem, ESPN did broadcast the matches live but their commentary made the sport as exciting as watching golf. It was during these times that the Spanish language channels came to my rescue. Watching that, I could see the true passion for "futbol", every build up to a goal was made so exciting by the pitch of the commentator's voice. And the eventual celebration of "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!" was just what my ears were waiting to hear. It didn't matter that I don't know a word of Spanish, it could have been in any language, but the language was common, it was football, a passion shared.

This time around, I don't have ESPN, only terrestrial TV. But I am grateful that I still get the Spanish channels. And for once I can be happy that those are the clearest channels I get.

2 Comments:

  • Well, you would get the world cup if you had Italian channels as well, it's not just the hispanic community, it is alive and well the Europeans and Africans I work with that can't wait to watch it and grumble while they're at work.

    Americans simply have too many sports to watch and they're good too. Hockey is excellent; the Olympic Hockey was phenominal during the winter games. Baseball is good, though the Mets and Yankees seem to have the same quality of crappy opening pitchers. I need not have to go into much detail in Basketball or Football (American) they're the kings of sports around here.

    Most Americans don't know the essentials of futbol and lack understanding of tactics and skill, and are simply waiting for some exciting breakaway or something that newbies to sports wait to see, something like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJfW3hrzAz8

    By Blogger Dark Jackal, at 6/01/2006 3:31 PM  

  • I'm glad you posted this blog. I haven't watched a sports game of any kind in a long time and recently I've noticed the fervor around futbol and have a need to watch it this time around. I just hope that ESPN doesn't broadcast it at 3 or 4 AM, that would suck with work and all. I'll not make any decisions about which team I'm rooting for as I have no right not watching all the games like a proper fan but I'll just be enjoying the game. Good to see that the US has finally come around to playing International sports.

    M

    By Blogger M, at 6/06/2006 1:43 PM  

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