Tuesday, July 1, 2014

World Cup, Whirled Peas?

I agree with Chuck Klosterman and his assessment of the beautiful game's popularity in the United States. The kids destined to be picked last love soccer because all they have to do is run back and forth to participate. There's no need to get anywhere near the ball to look like you are pivotal to the match. Kids get their pictures in the yearbook and then never have to think about sports again.

Most athletic American kids still choose ball sports where you actually have to touch the ball or individual sports that require you to directly compete. Maybe in a generation or two that will change. The fact is that the USA sends its fourth-tier(fifth maybe if you count hockey) athletes to the World Cup.

I've been asking everyone who's going to win the World Cup. I spent a bunch of time in Jo-burg while waiting for the heli to get out of the doctor's office and was often the only "English" guest in the hotel. The most interesting thing I heard(and I heard it many times) was that Africa needs a continent-wide team to field for the World Cup. I pointed out that football is the least expensive sport, a village only needs one ball and it's the one sport aside from running that Africans could/should be able to compete at a world level and was consistently met with disbelief in my inability to feel sorry for Africans.

Has the world ruined Africa's ability to help itself after years of handouts? I don't know, but I do know that if Argentina knocks Belgium out, conversations at Gentse Feesten on the last day(called the "Day of empty pockets," when all the beer prices are cut in half) will not be about how Europe needs one team for the World Cup. Europeans would riot if Spain and Germany had to play for Greece or France in an all-Euro team. And the rest of the football world would riot, too. But I bet very few would say boo if an all-Africa team were proposed.