32 nations have sent their finest to Brazil for a chance to lift the cup. And I could not be more excited.
Growing up in the Middle East, football was everywhere. Whether it be local club matches or international friendlies, I would watch it all. Didn’t understand a thing the Arab commentators were saying, but I didn’t need to as long I understood the ultimate of announcements: “Goooooooooooooooooool”! (Most likely followed by at least 3 “Allah-u-Akbar”s.)
I grew up in the era of Maradona, my first, and most beloved, sports idol. I cheered on Argentina in 1986 to victory, not aware at the time of how heavily the hand of God helped. I had Maradona sneakers and wore them everywhere. Honestly, I still wish I had them. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see him lead the Argentine side in the 2010 cup, hoping he would give into his ego and just run out on the field himself.
I remember watching the 1994 World Cup in Pakistan, hoping the electricity wouldn’t go out before the game concluded. My battle against loadshedding was almost as dramatic as some of the matches themselves. Or risking my grades for the 2002 cup, as the tournament kicked off during college finals at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night. Or being the lone Argentine supporter at a bar near my office as they got ousted by Germany in the 2006 quarterfinals. My Moroccan waiter sharing in my pain. Or sitting in a sports bar watching Zidane get ejected from the final that same year, shocked at what had just transpired, as the Italian fans around me cheered.
As a kid, I even understood the world through football. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 80’s, I didn’t understand what war entailed but I understood competition. So when I would hear about it, I pictured it as a football match, with both countries cheering on their sides. (If only conflicts were actually settled that way, huh?)
Though that may be a strange example to use, it’s perfect for showing you what this beautiful game does. It introduces you to the world.
Fans of the teams are not confined by borders, languages, or really anything at all. It’s the spirit of the game that captures you, and the world relishes in it. People across the world are huddled around tv sets, computers, radios, or what have you to follow the tournament. Whether or not their home team is in it, all us are holding our breath for every save and every goal.
It truly is the world’s game. So, whether or not you’re supporting my Albicelestes, here’s to a great tournament. See you on the pitch!