Were you one of the 25 million Americans who watched the 2014 FIFA World Cup this year? If the craze caught you, then you’ll appreciate this recap Ten Things We Learned from the World Cup. In case you have been living under a rock, World Cup is an international soccer tournament that takes place every four years. It is to soccer what the Olympic Games are to sports like ice skating and gymnastics. Through a series of match-ups held over four weeks, teams representing countries throughout the world compete for the World Championship title. This year, that honor went to Germany in a climactic finish.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t pay as much attention to the games of the World Cup as the legions of enthusiastic fans around the world. Yet, I am intrigued: How do events like this captivate and hold the world’s attention beyond the competitive aspect and love of the game?
Our world is in many ways divided. Cultural differences, language barriers and geographical distance separate us from our neighboring countries. Despite these divisions, sports provide a global language that people around the world understand and celebrate. Though the competitive nature of sports can appear to create more of a rift than unity between countries, these games allow us to find the similarities between people, and are an ideal opportunity to feel the same emotions together: joy, pride, nationalism and enthusiasm for wins, as well as the pain, frustration and disappointment of defeat.
Though so far I’ve talked about the positive aspects of the World Cup, there was also a dark side, such as when player Luis Suarez of Uruguay bit Giorgio Chiellini, of Italy, during the match. Contrast this with Tim Howard, the US team goalie who single handedly held off Belgium for most of their game, and in so doing inspired millions of fans and non fans alike. Through these acts of both malevolence and heroism, the human nature that we all share is revealed, and it is these types of stories that captivate and are remembered long after time clocks and penalty kicks.
Finally, it’s just fun for entire countries to come together to root for one team. In the US, we’re so often competitive with each other over our favorite college or professional football, basketball or baseball teams that our sports drive us apart. Events like the World Cup bring us together as a nation to root for our one home team.
What did you think of the World Cup? Did you watch every game with national anthem and face paint? Are you still not sure what the rules of “futbol” entail? Somewhere in between? Let us know!