Every four years, I become obsessed with soccer. The World Cup brings my inner fútbol fan out of hibernation, and this year was no different. Regardless of the fact that this Cup has become more of a European Cup so to speak, I’m still sad to see it go. I’m not really an avid soccer fanatic- that title goes to my brother who has tickets to our city’s MLS team, and actually watches games on TV (e.g., La Liga, Premier League, UEFA). But when World Cup time comes around, I go hard for my motherland (no matter if we can’t make it out of Round 16- the bad luck can’t last forever!).
There’s a certain energy that saturates the air when the World Cup makes its appearance. Things seem much more colorful. You can’t avoid crossing paths with people proudly sporting their countries’ colorful jerseys. And as you drive through LA, you will inevitably pass by plenty of cars with flags fastened to their windows. You know, the ones that violently flap with any mention of wind. There is no better demonstration of how much of a beautiful melting pot LA is.
Family get-togethers become much more frequent, a little louder, and consequently (thankfully), much more animated. There’s nothing like experiencing a whole house jump and cheer in celebration of a goal- and it’s even better when you can hear that same noise coming from your neighbor’s house next door. You get the urge to go outside (weird??) and kick around the soccer ball. It makes you think about looking for your old shinguards & cleats, because…hmm, maybe it’s time to kick the dust off those puppies and put them back to use. There’s a slight sense of nostalgia that piggybacks on these moments. I reminisce about my AYSO days, running around in my oversized jersey. I remember it so fondly during the World Cup, and I sit in denial of the fact that I quit because, in retrospect, I hate running (I actually used to pretend to have asthma to get out of running extra laps, but I digress).
Anyways, like I said, it’s a happy time. Even if you sit to watch just one game, chances are you’ll get hooked. And then all of a sudden, time, itself, becomes an unnecessary construct. I know that sounds comparable to an exaggeration, but what I mean is that it doesn’t matter if it’s 3am or 7am- if your team is playing, you will be up. You will call in late, or at the very least, set up your phone in front of your computer screen during those this-should-have-been-an-email work meetings. The World Cup does throw off your sleeping schedule and disorients you, but you happily welcome the disruption. After all, you’ll have to savor these moments and make them last for the next four years. What a necessary evil. Because if the World Cup happened every year, it would lose a lot of it’s appeal. It could (or would) become routine and lackadaisical. What makes it special is the pressure to perform well…or suffer the consequences of having to go home early, and wait another four years to prove yourself.
It might sound silly to say that you are grateful for a soccer tournament, but I am. I mean, maybe we should start being grateful for every little thing that puts a smile on our face- not just the big stuff. On a personal level, it’s brought my family closer and given us the perfect excuse to have more frequent get-togethers. But that energy has also spilled into the outside world. People meet up at sports bars, restaurants, and outdoor viewing parties to watch games and celebrate together. The World Cup provides you with enough dialogue to fill the small voids in conversations with strangers. If you walk down the street in your jersey, you will undoubtedly receive cheers from people rooting for your country. And even more heartwarming…you’ll see people embracing other fans from different countries for saving their teams from elimination (shout-out to South Korea, Mexico hasn’t forgotten).
Are you on my side yet? Can you understand my fascination with the World Cup? Possible FIFA corruption aside, this tournament is a beautiful thing. Sweet fútbol…bringing us together one goal at a time.