For about one month every four years, the world effectively shuts down. There is one topic of conversation, one thing on people’s minds, one sound from radio or TV heard in all shops: The World Cup. Many sites have been putting out resources to help us get prepared and pumped. ESPN’s 30 for 30 and Grantland have everything you need, from nostalgia to documentaries to previews of the coming contest in Brazil (that is, if the stadia are completed…).
This summer marks 20 years since the States hosted the world’s largest convention of national flags, vuvuzelas, and diving. World Cup ‘94 showed that Americans could in fact put down their footballs and baseball gloves long enough to play nice with the rest of the world in the world’s game. I’d just like to share my own moments of consolation and desolation from that World Cup.
Consolation – Hristo Stoichkov’s gliding, graceful freekick was etched in my mind because it led to Bulgaria’s monumental upset of Germany, one of my beloved Italy’s great rivals.
Desolation – Then Italy faced its archrival, Brazil, in the finals. Roberto Baggio, the #10 who carried Italy’s offense all tournament, produced one the most-heartbreaking moments in sports history:
Honorable Mention Desolation – the American soccer uniforms. Yes, that’s supposed to be denim on a soccer jersey. So basically, we had soccer jeggings… [shudder].
I have many fond memories of World Cup ‘94. I was eight years old and I was swept up in the passion and beauty of the games. And I have been hooked on soccer ever since – which is good because my love for Juventus and Italy have given me the championships that my Philly teams have not. And I’m not alone. Many of my twenty- and thirtysomething contemporaries have also become hooked on soccer. So have TV executives who have penned deals to expand coverage for the Barclay’s Premier League, Major League Soccer, and the US Men’s National Team. So have those who are bringing new pro soccer teams to Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami. All of this is pointing to more Americans being conversant in an international topic of conversation that builds quick and easy bridges with others.
When America invited the world in, we became richer for the experience. Just run and chase a ball around and all of a sudden nations grow in respect and learn from each other. Not bad.
Cover Image: World Cup 1994 & 1998 : Childish Gandino / Flickr Creative Commons; available at https://flic.kr/p/89qMg4