The beautiful game

I love watching soccer -- or football, as it's called pretty much everywhere in the world except the USA. To me, it's one of the most exciting sports to watch. It's fast-paced, with constant movement and action. You KNOW the players have to be in tip-top shape, given all that running around on the big field. What's not to like?

The FIFA World Cup comes around every four years, like the Olympics. While I don't quite understand the team elimination process or the groupings, and I don't get why the games go longer than 90 minutes at times, or why a "draw" is considered a win (sort of?), or what the deal is with the little yellow and red cards (kidding here) -- it doesn't matter. Details, details. :-)

I'll always root for the USA since this is where I was born and where I live, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate other teams or root for them if the USA is not playing.

And there are LOTS of talented teams. Germany, for example, is always good. They may be the "second least experienced" team in the World Cup this year, but they beat the "second most experienced" team (Australia) 4-0 yesterday. Italy won the 2006 World Cup, so everyone's going to be watching them this year. Spain won the 2008 EURO, which makes them interesting to me, since I was in Vienna (where the final was played) when they won. (See my blog entry on that here.) And Brazil . . . well, Brazil is always amazing. Argentina and South Korea (among others) are playing well so far. At this point, it seems like it's almost anyone's game . . . which is another cool thing about the World Cup.

But my favorite team to watch this year will be the same as in 2006 - Portugal. Why, you ask? Two words: Cristiano Ronaldo. In addition to being an amazing player, he looks like a modern-day Adonis. Need I say more?!!

Cristiano Ronaldo is the perfect example of why I like soccer/football, and I'm not just talking about watching the very fit young men running around on the field. Soccer/football is probably the most egalitarian sport in the world. You don't have to buy a lot of equipment, or take expensive lessons, to learn or play. A child growing up in a favela in the city, or a tiny village far from big stadiums, has as much of chance of growing up to be a "football star" as a child growing up in a wealthy suburb. Cristiano Ronaldo (son of a cook and gardener) is one of the world's highest paid footballers . . . with a salary of something like US $15 million per year!!! This is just one of many such stories.

Of course, it's not only about money. "Football" gives people hope . . . it brings people together . . . it generates feelings of pride in one's team or city or country. I like watching the fans as much as I like watching the game. The fans are interesting! Some of them get all decked out in their team colors. Some fans take it really seriously! Remember Super GERman? (I certainly do, from the 2008 UEFA EURO.)

Yep, I'll be watching as much of the World Cup as possible this year. OK, gotta run. Japan is playing Cameroon, and later today Italy plays Paraguay. Ciao for now!

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