World Cup: The Real Midsummer Classic

    In this tumultuous life, the only constant is change. Everything in the modern world — from political theater to vacuum-cleaning technology — is ever-transforming. However, without fail, every four years, life grants the global community one single month of reprieve — an opportunity to rid ourselves of daily preoccupations and join together for the single greatest sporting spectacle known to man: the FIFA World Cup.

    For the last three-and-a-half years, fans worldwide have been forced to lay dormant their eager anticipation for the global showdown. However, now that 2010 is officially half a month old and the World Cup year is finally here, football fanatics worldwide — myself included — can hardly restrain their excitement for the impending pinnacle of the best game on Earth.

    However, in this country, due to soccer’s lack of media attention, I can’t help but feel like I am one of a small population who view the sport for the great athletic contests it is — not a sport for cheats and play-actors.

    My affinity for the sport of soccer began when I, like almost every kid in this country, joined a team in my local youth leagues. But, unlike most of my friends — so quick to abandon soccer for the likes of more mainstream sports — my interest persevered. Since then it’s grown to be a very important part of my life.

    The 1994 World Cup, hosted in the U.S., was the first time I could consciously follow the competition. From there on out, I’ve been completely entranced by everything soccer. When Germany played the U.S. in Palo Alto, Calif., at Stanford University that summer, I was there before the marvel. Even at eight years old, it was impossible not to goggle at the euphoric atmosphere that the World Cup spectacle created. An amalgamation of colors painted the stands of the stadium. Drunk German fans exchanged playful verbal jabs with Americans, while a fervent nationalistic pride pulsated like electricity through the stands. The celebratory atmosphere in the stadium I witnessed that day was unlike any I’ve ever experienced — it’s completely unique to the World Cup.

    The latest installment, hosted by Germany in 2006, was especially unforgettable. The tournament was run with a measure of efficiency that typified its German hosts, and reflected the modern state of the sport. The footballing community was welcomed into Germany to watch the matches in state-of-the-art stadiums in well-organized cities.

    The players on the pitch did not disappoint. We came away from the 2006 World Cup with images that are now indelibly ingrained into the hearts and minds of all soccer fans. The image of French footballing icon Zinadine Zidane — arguably the greatest player in the modern game — being sent off for his infamous “head-butt heard ‘round the world” on the Italian central defender Marco Materazzi will forever live on in the folklore of the sport.

    This year, the world’s gaze will turn to South Africa for its once-in-every-four year footballing feast, and the tournament has made history before the first ball has even been kicked. The 2010 World Cup marks the first time that an African country will host the competition, and FIFA’s decision to bestow the honor upon South Africa to host its prestigious tournament sends a greater message. The decision recognizes the progress the country has made, and provides it an opportunity to showcase itself to the world as an emerging, developing beacon of hope in Africa. Additionally, it demonstrates FIFA’s intention of expanding the sport in the continent, and recognizing Africa as an emerging footballing region.

    The 2010 World Cup is effectively South Africa’s coming-out party on the world stage. So dawn your favorite team’s jersey, hit the pub and bask in the glory that June and July will provide.

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