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Monday, June 16, 2014

The Beautiful Game Known as Football (almost) All Over the World


Yes, I am a World Cup fan. I have not always been so. Let's recall that I grew up with a father who ate, drank and breathed American football and let's also recall, that before 1998, I would never have referred to it as American football. But we do grow and evolve as we are exposed to new situations, people and experiences.
Doug and I were married in the spring of 1994 in Chicago. That summer, Chicago hosted the opening ceremonies of the World Cup. Doug was trying to explain to me what a big deal it was for the US to be hosting the Cup. I wasn't very interested. Remember, I grew up with an American Football coach father who really thought that soccer was an activity that may not catch on because in its purest form, it was indeed a communist plot to overtake the world!
But then in 1998 we moved to Sweden. Our move to Europe preempted any thoughts about soccer, at least for me. But by the time 2002 rolled around, I had been the pastor of a church where over 50 different nationalities were present and my global awareness had gone up exponentially! Suddenly every single person in our church was talking about football! The hotel next to our church put up large screens and we discovered that many parishioners were sneaking over to check out the scores on Sundays! And I was learning more and more about the game itself so instead of being focused on a lack of scoring, which frankly, is why many Americans can't get into soccer, I began to enjoy the rhythm and beauty of the game itself. And truly, EVERY single person around me was into it and loving it! By the time 2006 rolled around, I was a full on World Cup junkie like the rest of my congregation! Doug and I took a trip to Greece during the early stages of the tournament and couldn't believe that every single restaurant had outdoor TV screens set up and you could watch the games any time, any place! We even held our first ever Immanuel Cup where men and women from ages 6-70 played football all afternoon in a nearby park! (We have continued this tradition on an annual basis!).


The evening of the final, we hosted a large screen event at church and enjoyed the cheering and jeering that went on.  In 2010, the South African vuvuzelas (the plastic horns that created the incessant buzz in the stadiums) drove us all crazy! By now, I knew some of the players and was really starting to enjoy watching the underdog teams make a run for glory! And now, here we are again in 2014 and the madness has started all over again! I'm in the US right now which is a better time zone for viewing games than Sweden so I'm having a great time checking scores, watching games, and reading the commentary that is coming over Facebook all the time! Admittedly, I still don't pay attention for a full 90 minutes but today I was in a restaurant by myself while the USA-Ghana match was on. I was thrilled to be amidst other fans, all delighting in the beautiful game, as it is known throughout the world. The fact that the US pulled out the win in the final minutes was a real bonus!
Leading up to the Cup several ads were released to generate interest. Here are two that are simply just cool. Take a minute and watch: The Future of Football?
Still not convinced? Watch this beauty and begin to see the global impact of this incredible game. Must Make You Smile
Of course, like all professional sport, FIFA has its issues and football is not void of its problems. But I for one am proud to say that even though I did not grow up loving or appreciating this game, I am so thrilled to have come into the sentiment of the World Cup and appreciate why the rest of the world loves it ever so much. Even my American football loving father began to watch the World Cup because of his Mexican friends! I know, I know...too many games are decided by shoot out. Too much drama from the players who act like they've broken their leg every time they fall down. Not enough scoring to sate the American palette for high scoring events. And yet, to watch the movement, to see the athleticism of the players, to watch an underdog beat a favorite...well, it really is a thing of beauty. And when they crown a World Champion...it really is a World champion because, well, the World has participated!
In case you care, I'm cheering for Brazil (because I picked them to win) Colombia and the USA because I've lived in both of those countries. (I'm still bummed out that Sweden didn't qualify this time around) and any African nation when they aren't playing the above named nations!
So let me end by saying this: If you don't like the World Cup, that's fine. But please, for the love of the rest of the world, don't complain about it. Open your mind and open your heart to the beauty that is football...and I don't mean American football...I mean World football.