Don't ask me why this is my first post on my new obsession, the World Cup.
Every four years, FIFA, the International Football (Soccer) Federation, holds what is probably the most famous, and most watched world-wide, sporting event, the World Cup. Nations from seriously, all over the world, compete to fill 32 slots to eventually become the world soccer champions. Of course, this competition is HUGE here in Europe, as soccer is THE sport.
I first remember hearing about the World Cup in 1994 when it was held in the US. I really didn't pay much attention to soccer before then, and I probably only took notice of that World Cup for two reasons: 1. the US national team held a practice at our high school, 2. one of the German national players was a Kohler. That was about my only interest in the World Cup that year. You know, there was even a World Cup in France in 1998? I don't even remember hearing about that one. In 2002, it was held in South Korea. I remember that one. I remember that people were displeased about the way the whole competion was marketed. Germany came in 2nd that year, but I don't remember much hoopla.
The last World Cup, 2006, was huge! Germany hosted it, and well, what an amazing time to live in Germany. There was an energy in the whole country that I have never before experienced. You could feel this energy everywhere. Patriotism rose in Germany to levels people hadn't seen here in years. Scientists and researchers spoke constantly about a shift in the German mindset caused by the 2006 World Cup. Most importantly though, the US did pretty darn well. It was the first time I really took notice of the magnitude of this event.
Now, its 2010, and the World Cup is in South Africa. I'm working at an international school now, and quite cool, I know South Africans. I was already excited about this World Cup, but not totally prepared for its awesomeness. Germans have put their flags back outside, on their cars, on their car mirrors. At work, in the parking lot, you can find cars with German flags, South African flags, Mexican flags, Dutch flags, English flags, and a few US flags. On the first day of the World Cup, which happened to be my birthday, it was so cool to see kids in the soccer jerseys of their home countries. In sport class, we had a Dutch jersey, a German jersey, and a Mexican jersey. So cute, and so very cool! And Germany, it seems to have returned to nearly the same energy that was present 4 years ago. The World Cup is the highlight of every conversation, German flags are EVERYWHERE, and you can feel the air tingle with excitement.
I'm supporting 3 teams this year, Germany, the US, and Mexico. All three have advanced now from the Knock-Out rounds, and are into the playoffs.
We have watched most games, South Africa is in the same time-zone. I excitedly watch Mexico in the opening game, tie with South Africa. I was so happy to watch Germany beat Australia 4-0, and sad to hear that Germany lost 0-1 to Serbia. What has been most impressive for me though, has been the US team. I am constantly impressed with the talent on our national team. Soccer is not a nationally adored sport in the US. In other countries, the people get behind the national team, and hold them as heroes. It seems half of the people in the States don't even know what's going on right now with our soccer team. Our team is really good. We tied England in our fist game, which was a huge feat, considering England is a favorite to win. Our second game, against Slovenia was heartbreaking, as we absolutely won the game, yet a poor judgement call on behalf of the referee resulted in a tie instead of a win for the US. Last night was one ginormous nail-biter. We had to win the game in order to advance to the Round of 16, meaning we have advanced already to the top half of World Cup contenders. In 90 minutes against Algeria, there was no score. It surely looked like we were done. Then in the 91st minute, during injury- time, Landon Donovan scored the winning goal! It was amazing!
And then, two hours later, the German team scored one goal against Ghana, bringing them too into the Round of 16, or as Germans call it, the 8th Finals. So exciting!
Celebratory fireworks could be heard outside last night, as Germany advanced. After the game, I went outside for a little air. To one of the most awesome experiences ever, the air was completely filled with the sound of fireworks and Vuvuzelas, the hated horns that are staples of South African soccer. I wish I could have recorded the sound in the neighborhood, which I am certain, was the sound in the entire country last night. And then, I wish I could have recoded my feeling at that moment, to be a witness to the feeling here. It was definately one of those moments that made me feel small and thankful to be a part of something so very, very big!