Although I grew up playing futbol (or as we Americans say, Soccer), I’m pretty detached from it these days.
But this does not mean that I don’t enjoy the sport.
I went to my first MLS game last year when the San Jose Earthquakes played the Portland Timbers, and I had a great time.
I’ll also occasionally tune-in to a Barcelona match thanks to my father in-law, or even an international friendly when it involves the Chilean national team, La Roja.
Yeah, I’m still nostalgic towards the year I spent in Chile, which was now more than 10 years ago.
But my favorite time to watch futbol is during the World Cup.
Yes, I know FIFA is (or at least was) super corrupt, but I really can’t take my eyes away from the action.
Though it can be perceived as “just sports”, I think it’s an interesting look into different countries and cultures.
Sure, it may be a bit superficial, but it’s still more than many of us ever get to see of the world that exists outside of our own home countries.
One of my favorite examples of this was during the Chilean national anthem vs. Spain in 2010.
Even though the music was cut short during the lengthy anthem, the players and fans kept it going in one of the most beautiful displays of nationalism I’ve ever seen.
If you thought you had pride in your country, watch this:
Another fun example of the “little things” was when North Korea competed in the 2010 World Cup.
They weren’t a very good team, but the fact that almost nobody knew anything about them was fascinating to me.
I felt strong empathy for the players, since there was likely an incredible (and potentially life-threatening) amount of pressure behind every sequence they were involved in.
In a way, I wanted to root for them.
Meanwhile, in the current tournament we’ve seen two incredible examples of fans from underdog countries (Japan and Senegal) cleaning up after themselves at the stadium, putting all celebration on pause.
I mean, they beat Colombia and Poland respectively, and they’re cleaning up instead of celebrating.
How can you not instantly fall in love with both of these countries after something as seemingly insignificant as this?
And on top of these behind-the-scenes moments, you have the excitement of the sport itself.
Yes, it’s not necessarily high-scoring. Yes, there’s a lot of flopping/acting.
But how can you not appreciate the athleticism, skill, passion, and teamwork that comes with futbol?
Watching Spain take on Iran in the background as I type this is making an otherwise difficult week much more enjoyable.
If you haven’t watched much of the World Cup in the past, I encourage you to check it out before it goes away for another four years.
This is a special event.