Ok. Like so many North Americans, I admit to knowing very little about the beautiful game of soccer. I know the best teams in the various European countries around the world, I can name a few of the best players in the world, and I know which teams win in places like England, France, and Spain each year.
And, like most, I will watch the World Cup, and I will watch the European Championships. But that’s about it. It is unbelievably rare that I will watch a league match, or even a Champions League game during the year. I need to save myself up for the big tournaments, I suppose.
There is something about the World Cup, regardless if you are a soccer fan or not. It is incredible that there is one event that is bigger than any kind of sport we follow in North America, bigger than the Olympics. The fact that there will be about a billion people watching the Germany-Argentina game this afternoon is mind-blowing. Soccer is the universal sport. Everybody can play soccer. It is not expensive, it is simple enough, and it is loved like religion across the globe.
Everybody has a team. And in a place like Canada, where people’s backgrounds are incredibly diverse, it is awesome to see, and learn, who people are cheering for.
Myself, I will cheer for a few teams (I don’t feel the need to be especially loyal). I always cheer for Italy, because my great-grandfather immigrated from Italy when he was a teenager, setting up the lives of so many people after him here in Canada.
I will cheer for any team from the former Yugoslavia. My grandmother came over from Yugoslavia when she was young, her family settling in Edmonton. Her hometown is now in Serbia, but I will cheer for any of the teams from the region. This year, it was Bosnia and Croatia. Neither did especially well, but in the case of Bosnia, it was great to see the continually rebuilding nation even make it to the World Cup. They also won a game, which is a massive step in the right direction for the small country. These places mean a lot to me, because they are a part of my bloodline, but I have also had the opportunity to travel there, and see what incredible countries they are.
I also often cheer for teams that are favorites from my travels. I cheer for Argentina, because I love Argentina. I don’t know a lot about their particular brand of football, but the country was amazing, and I want them to do well.
It is great to see how people band together to love the sport that is generally unloved here most of the time. Little Italy explodes in the city. The Greek community comes together for every single game. The large French population is out in droves to watch their team succeed. Being Canada, a large number of our populace is of British descent, so every England game is a big deal. There are car flags, and jerseys to be seen everywhere. You learn about where people came from, based on who they cheer for. It seems like the Dutch come out of the woodwork every four years. Where are these guys the rest of the time? Who knows. But they are Dutch, and the success of their team lets you know that they are secretly orange clad crazies every four years.
I love it. I love seeing the pride in our national heritages. Of course, if Canada ever made it to the World Cup again (we only made it in once before, in 1986, I believe), it may be a different story, as the majority of people could get behind one team. But it is awesome to see the blending of heritages that we have in this city, and in this country. It’s okay if your neighbor cheers for the Germans and you are English.
As for this tournament, it has been incredible. Big upsets, some high scoring games, the usual array of extremely impressive goals and individual performances. There hasn’t really been a team that has stood up and dominated the entire tournament, but it is difficult to argue against Germany and Argentina being here (I really want Argentina to win this thing!). They have been the most solid teams throughout, and neither has dropped a match thus far. That will change in a couple of hours, of course.
The Germans have to be the big favorites here, especially with their shocking dismantling of the home team, and tournament favorites, Brazil, 7-1 in the semi-finals. I had to re-read that score several times to make sure it wasn’t a mistake.
Like many people around here, all I want to see is an exciting game, where teams exchange chances, and the better team comes out on top. I would also be happy if it ended before overtime, because penalty kicks is no way to win the whole thing (even though it worked for my Italian side in 2006).
Best of luck to the two teams, and let’s go Argentina!