A love of the beautiful game
I won’t pretend that this year’s FIFA World Cup has a sterling record when it comes to a range of human rights and other violations. It is not a bright shining light for FIFA or its selection process and the best that can be said is that it is raising these issues for a global audience to see in sharper detail.
And yet, the beautiful game continues on, with billions of people worldwide seeking a way to share and celebrate the game they love. The players take the pitch, goals are made (or missed or blocked) and the unexpected happens (as Argentina reminded us in their first match).
A way to connect across borders
In 2010, I joined a regional leadership team filled with people from across Europe, Middle East, Africa and India. I worried about standing out as the American, but the World Cup arrived in June, providing an amazing opportunity to dive into what it means to the world (especially outside the U.S.). Flags went up, offices were decorated, jokes were told and group standings were discussed at length. Meetings during matches were unofficially discouraged and a centrally located television showed every match in case we could sneak away to watch. People shared stories about their love of the game and their experiences watching with family and friends as I avidly took it all in.
The best part? I was encouraged to join in. I introduced my stepdaughters to it when they visited that summer, watching from hotel rooms and bars in Switzerland and France. They saw flags on balconies and heard the yells (of excitement or disappointment) for a sport that doesn’t get much attention in the U.S. Then I was off to London for the indelible experience of watching the England/Germany match in Hyde Park, a memory I cherish. Since then, I’ve had the fun of watching the Euros from Paris, the Copa Americana from Chicago and Tottenham at White Hart Lane (COYS!), each a favorite shared moment. This year, my family watched the World Cup matches together on Thanksgiving and my dad has been texting me about matches, creating more great memories.
Which is why I still love the World Cup, in spite of this year’s issues and FIFA’s gaps. My memories are connected in some small way to millions of other memories held by people around the world – that is a rare treat.