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World Cup From A Middle-Aged Lady’s Perspective, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:48am

Mexico vs. Cameroon via ESPN


World Cup, guys! Are you excited? For many reasons, I find this more fun than any other sportsapalooza. A metric? I’ve installed the GOAL sidebar in Firefox, so I don’t have to wonder which game is being played when.

And how come?

Personal history, in part. My counterculture high school fielded a soccer team, instead of football. Our guys played with long hair and bandana headbands and we were cool. In college, one of my best friends was a guy who had a) grown up in Hungary b) escaped over the border with his parents at 14 c) attended high school in Canada d) been recruited to Princeton to play soccer.

So I hung out with the soccer team all senior year. Might have dated that best friend too, briefly. When Pelé and Beckenbauer came to the US, and the Cosmos played in New York, we went to a game. So did the world, it seemed, or at least its representatives.

And then my son’s time as center midfielder in high school. Vivid memories of that so smart teenager, watching the field, never making a mistake.

Of course, soccer is harder to enjoy on television. But coverage has improved enormously over the years, and ESPN GO makes it easy to catch up on the lore we in the USA might miss. While I may not want background stories on minor characters in Game Of Thrones (it’s pretend! I’m suspending disbelief! don’t complicate things!), they do make for  a better soccer experience.

A question that’s been puzzling me. Why does soccer seems to produce more photos of good-looking men than any other sport? Many possible explanations. Football and hockey players wear too much headgear, basketball players never stop moving long enough for a shot, baseball players are too often prone to unusual facial hair and golfers to tummies. Now, Olympic athletes, hmmm, but I just can’t get past swim caps.

Call me old-fashioned.

Finally, soccer’s global reach gives humankind the chance to show up civilized. Or not, of course, as recent struggles with racism and thuggery prove out. But I like to watch the stands almost as much as the games, to imagine the lives of the players and fans, to compare the body languages of different cultures.

“High WASPs did not originally understand the falling down to bring a foul call, but we now believe it’s quite a good strategy, under the circumstances.”

Columbia vs. Greece starts in 10 minutes. South Africa’s 2010 World Cup brought us the vuvuzela – Brasil, what you got?

Photo credit: ESPN

40 Responses

  1. Me too! Love World Cup! I’m sure I am also highly influenced by the memories of my son playing soccer…plus we were in Italy during World Cup 2006 when they won! I will never forget that excitement…which has made me a lifelong fan. And speaking of good-looking young men, well, I posted on the magazine covers that featured Ronaldo and Neymar recently…enough said.

  2. My (English) husband and I married in 1989 after dating for a year. He was a sweet, bookish, poetry and music loving guy who never annoyed me by wanting to discuss sports. Imagine my amazement when June 1990 came around and he suddenly turned into a RABID England fan, wearing stupid shirts, drinking endless beers and talking incomprehensible slang with a bunch of lads who occupied our coach nonstop for 3 weeks and making a hell of a lot of noise.

    I decided it was either join them or seek a divorce. Since then, I have become a convert and DH and I are celebrating our 6th World Cup together!

  3. I relate to that since my husband is also an englishman, but I am armenian and long before him I was already watching all the world cups and eurocups with my brother and his friends so yes I absolutely love the world cup and get very excited watching every game.

  4. Oh dear…I’m the odd “person” out in this conversation. In our house it’s hockey, hockey, hockey. My husband has played hockey almost since he could walk. Played at a high lever in his teens and early twenties. And has not stopped playing since. I grew up loving the Montreal Canadiens and still get excited during Stanley Cup season. (albeit at a much lower level than Hubby.)
    Neither of us can get excited about soccer.Even Wirld Cup soccer. My husband does watch some of the World Cup games…as a former Phys Ed teacher and athlete…his interest is “academic” not that of a fan. I just leave the room and curl up with my book.

  5. Being from the UK football (as it’s known here) is hard to escape. However once every four years I am glued to the TV for the World Cup. It’s a tradition in many workplaces here to have a sweepstake and I drew former winners and world champions Spain. My delight has since evaporated as they crashed 5:1 last night. Tonight we have the purgatory that is watching England – the whole country will be up into the early hours as the game starts at 11pm here – whatever the outcome it’s such a great event involving the whole world… Bring it on!

    1. @Julia Sugden, I forgot to say that it’s one of the few times these days that my adult sons, their friends and my husband and I are all together enjoying the highs and lows – love it!

  6. I once shared a flight with the Guatemalan soccer team. Yummy. ;-)

    My sister has been a futbol enthusiast for most of her life, both playing and then coaching. She gave me a great appreciation for the game, though I rarely have the opportunity to sit and watch sports anymore.

  7. I just love the World Cup.Being from Germany,I am (sorry) hoping that Germany will win,but also hoping that the US team will do great.Spain does have the most handsome players.

    1. I’m American, but I’m rooting for Germany. I pick teams by good uniforms (US always loses IMO), cute guys, and most theatrical fall down. But Germany is just fun to watch. Also, I think Mesut Özil is the snakes hips!

  8. I’m brasilian and living in Brasil now. You all, soccer lovers can’t imagine how nice it is to have people from all over the world coming here to watch the games, even if they don’t have tickets and watch it from the streets, there are parties everywhere! That we brasilians have many troubles…every body knows, but nowadays, who doesn’t? World Cup is amazing, and better when we are part of it. Have a nice weekend!

    1. @teresa, good to read you find peace and party in the streets and that it is not always about teargas. I have mixed feelings, since there were/are many people in Brasil protesting. Not to mention the FIFA and the $$$ they make in Brasil.

    2. Answering Lisa, what Brasil will bring us? You all pay attention at the begining of the game, when singing our hymn, after Fifa’s recorded first part, all the people at the stadium remain singing the second part without the record, by heart…is amazing!

  9. I drew the line when husband proposed to record all the games on our DVR, in HD. No, no, no — I got him down to SD. Can’t crowd my recordings out!

    I watched a touching WC commercial with the Chilan miners who were trapped underground on Slate mag this morning. I guess World Cup commercials are akin to Super Bowl commercials. Maybe I’ll wander in while they’re playing. You never know when you might learn something about someone else watching their ads.

  10. I enjoy watching soccer far more than football or basketball (though we are all about professional cycling here, despite the perpetual doping scandals). There’s something so graceful about futbol. And I’m not going to argue with you about the visual appeal of the players: there’s some serious eye candy out there.
    Overzealous soccer fanatics I’m not so keen on. Though this topic never fails to call to mind the over-the-top Mike Myers and Dana Carvey SNL skit featuring a fictitious show called “Scottish Soccer Hooligan Weekly.” Both hilarious and seriously gross! Do you know it?

  11. I am crazy for the game of soccer. My sons started playing at a young age and the oldest continued on with a college scholarship. I actually designed and sold soccer uniforms for a small company from the late 80’s to the mid 90’s, was present at many of the national soccer conventions and once had the opportunity to shake Pele’s hand and get his autograph for my boys. I have seen soccer played at the LA Olympics and attended a series of World Cup games in 1994 in Palo Alto and Pasadena where we witnessed the US beat Columbia. The streets of Pasadena rocked until the wee hours!
    As for the good looks of the players, well, I think this has as much to do with their stature and level of fitness as raw good looks. They are so well proportioned, not overly tall, or overly muscled but are athletic and graceful and able to move on the field for a 45 minute half. I also have a theory that soccer players are good dancers just because of the way they move on the field…

  12. Our daughters and our son all played soccer, so I spent many, many years watching and driving, driving and watching. Many weekends at out-of-town tournaments. Suspect I may not always have been as enthusiastic as you. But with my English heritage, there are def. soccer sympathies, and we’ll be trying to find a place here in Bordeaux to watch this afternoon’s game (and nervously recalling an earlier response to World Cup in France, a few years ago…)

  13. It’s nice that everyone’s enjoying themselves, but sport of any kind leaves me cold. Here in England, there’s a sudden sprouting of St George’s cross flags, (white with a red cross, not the Union flag)and a really odd patriotic newspaper thing from a tabloid delievered to everyone’s houses. Last night from about 11:30 onwards there we periodic howls and screams from a group presumably watching a game at a neighbour’s house. I do hope the same thing doesn’t happen late tonight, but I guess it will.

    I drew England in our workplace sweepstake but I hear that they’re not likely to win. Oh well…

    1. @Eleanorjane, isn’t the Flag the right one- it’s about England and not the UK, no? There would also be a Scotish team, but they did not qualify. From this perspective the flag seems correct.

  14. I live in Toronto, a very multicultural city. Many fans have their favourite country’s flag on their car – great fun to see the different nationalities represented. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. And if a country with a large demographic here wins, you’ll hear cars honking everywhere in celebration.

  15. When I was a co-ed in the Midwest decades ago, my small private college fielded a soccer team because our multi-national student body insisted upon it. Our ‘secret weapon’ was the Kenyan kids’ ability to converse in their native language on the field — and I can still recognize some words when I hear them in airports. * Now there’s a push to adopt cricket here in the States. I’ve never understood the game, and I fear I never shall; however, the fans appear to delight in attempting to teach it to us Yanks, so all will be well. I do love the polite applause when someone hits the ball, or catches the ball, or whatever was well done.

    1. @meg,

      Oops ! I enjoyed their from fitting jersey’s. Fellas chests have nice definition.Totally good idea – increased viewership/loyalty.

    2. I rooted for them on Saturday b/c of the nice uniforms, super cute goalie, and how much fun they had singing their national anthem. Too bad they lost that match.

  16. That pained howling you heard the other night was me watching the Spain-Holland match. Good lord, what a disaster! At least the Spanish team is as dishy as always. We can only hope that they recover and make it into the finals again.

    I played soccer (center half) in middle school and high school — pickup and “powder-puff” leagues, since Title 9 hadn’t trickled down to get us a girl’s soccer team. But like a lot of S.E. New Englanders, I was surrounded by soccer as a kid. It really is a universal sport — just about anybody can play it, and it’s so much fun to watch!

  17. I think polo players are even better looking than soccer players.

    Unfortunately, they wear long pants.

  18. I am in deep into the World Cup and lucky that I am, living with a European.

    I love anything that brings nations together.

    And I love watching fit people at work.

    I didn’t play soccer or have any soccer playing children but I’ve dated my share of soccer/rugby players and I love their dedication, determination and sense of community.

    xo J

  19. Another Brit who lives in a football free zone here – which suits me . My husband is not sporty but does enjoy listening to cricket on the radio – odd I know , but very popular here . I don’t even understand the rules but find it gently soporific . Each to their own.

  20. Supporting the fabulous Aussie socceroos who are in the hardest group draw!!! Our son last year was on the way to soccer training when the car he was in (we car pool as they train 3 times a wee) was hit by a speeding 21 year old who was doing police estimate approximately 170 km/hr in a 70 km/hr zone. Our son was 9 years of age at the time and neither he nor the driver of the car he was in were in the wrong – in fact they were stationary waiting for lights to change colour. Our son’s recovery was greatly assisted by the fabulous Soccer family. The western sydney wanderers a new but very successful local team sent their goal keeper Jerrad Tyson to our home when our son was still bed bound and he stayed for 5 &1/2 hours playing FIFA 13 with our son and just chatting with him. His coach Rob Frank came to hospital and stayed until the early hours of the morning the night of the accident and visited regularly and is the best coach ever Along with his first coach Tim Thorne. When the socceroos trained in Sydney last year, our son who by then was in a wheelchair and could use crutches was invited to their training session and he was asked who he would like to meet. Our socceroos are priceless for me and our son was speechless when he met Tim Cahill who plays for the New York bulls. Our son loved meeting all socceroos and their positive reaction to our son has helped his recovery. My husband and I are indebted forever to this soccer family for helping our son stay focused on his recovery. It is soccer all the way for us. Den xxx
    Ps Our son loves being a midfielder as well!

    1. @Den, What a wonderful story, and I am so sorry that happened to your son. I hope recovery continues and he is back to full boy strength soon.

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