From the dusty plains of Nigeria to the countryside of England, from the ancient streets of Prague, from the modern edifices of Sydney, the world is ready for some football. Even people in the United States, a notoriously football and baseball-focused nation, are ready to watch some soccer. The long-awaited 2014 World Cup in Brazil is finally here, the first match (Brazil vs. Croatia) kicking off at 5pm GMT on June 12.
You had better bet that Colombia knows when the World Cup is and is anxiously preparing for their June 14 match against Greece (they will also meet Ivory Coast and Japan during the initial group stage. It will be a tough group to be sure).
Colombia, like most of Latin America, is a football/soccer-loving nation, and are excited to have qualified and be participating in their first world cup since 1998. Expectations are high: despite star striker Falcao’s lingering injury, Colombia is ranked 8th.
The World Cup is a sporting event, but it is never without politics and controversy as well. Brazilians are mixed whether the over-budget, and unfinished stadiums built for the event will be worth the money, especially when hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods are so strapped for cash. If Brazil wins, the public might decide it is worth it; if not, we’ll see how the current politicians in power fare.
In general, however, the excitement of sport and friendly (okay, sometimes not so friendly) competition is a chance for peoples around the world to focus on something besides their own and the world’s problems, to cheer on their country.
For Colombia, it may be a chance to prove to the world once and for all that their negative reputation surrounding drug and violence is finally in the past. If Colombia goes far in this years’ competition, perhaps the world will associate Colombia with the friendly smiles and sunny yellow uniforms of Los Cafeteros, the nickname of the national team paying homage to the importance of coffee in Colombia.
Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to watch the games (a downside to living in bush Alaska for the summer and also why I will not update this blog very often this summer). I was glued to my computer watching the live streaming matches from South Africa in 2010, a results of the years I spent playing soccer growing up. I also love the World Cup for the same reason I love the Olympics (see my post from the Sochi Olympics here): it is a world event where we can, however superficially, feel united with people from all different backgrounds.
While I won’t be able to watch the games, I have a slim hope of listen to games on the shortwave radio I brought and I will certainly check the scores when I can.
I will imagine Colombians all around the country glued to their televisions following the games. Fuzzy screens propped on a wooden table in the steamy Amazon, large screens showing in front of even larger audiences fanning themselves as they sit in the sun on the coast. HDTVs mounted on walls in plush living rooms in Medellín. Patrons sipping beer and coffee in dark bars in Bogotá. With each goal in each game, the country will unite in a single breath, groaning or cheering.
I only wish I could be there, to experience this soccer mania as the World Cup plays out for the first time in South America.
Instead, I’ll try and listen on my radio and I’ll join in the world’s collective cheers and groans. And of course while I’ll be cheering on the USA team as well, I’ll be wearing my bright yellow football jersey (bought this past year in the Amazon) and rooting for Los Cafeteros to go all the way to the championship July 13.
Read more about Colombia’s passion for soocer, as well as their successes in cycling and baseball and how the national sport of tejo is played (hint: gunpowder is involved) in last year’ post about Colombian sports and World Cup qualification.