Editor’s Note: This article was written in June 2010 but its message continues to be relevant today…..
I used to think soccer was pretty boring but I’ve changed my mind. In fact, watching the World Cup over the past few weeks has made me realize that not only can soccer be exciting, it can serve as a uniting force and a common language in moving humanity towards a sense of oneness.
Yes, I know some of you reading this will argue that soccer is not as exciting as American football. And I know that others will point at instances of violent rioting after soccer matches as evidence that the sport is not a unifying force. I’ve held those point of views previously myself.
I grew up on American football and baseball. What makes them exciting to me is my appreciation for the nuances of the game. My personal understanding and history with the sports enhances the sense of excitement I gain from viewing them. Yet let’s be honest, without this inner appreciation for the sport itself, especially baseball, I doubt we would call it exciting. So it’s what we bring to the sport that makes it special to us.
My wife and I just got back from a vacation in Europe. What struck me was the excitement that each country was exhibiting regarding the World Cup. There was great interest in watching all the games no matter who was playing. We visited restaurants, bars and pubs from Germany to France to England and in Ireland. In each place I could talk with locals about World Cup games that we had both watched and share our thoughts about our experience. It was like discussing American football or baseball with fellow Americans only the discussion and sport transcended national boundaries.
The emotion that sport generates can transcend our differences and bind us together. This was the point of last year’s movie “Invictus” which detailed how Nelson Mandela used rugby and the quest for a world championship for South Africa as a unifying force to break down apartheid.
Yes, soccer’s World Cup does pit one country versus another on the field and its passionate fans do sometimes exhibit behavior that is not in our best interest. Yet the raising of interest around the planet towards the winner of the tournament serves a greater purpose — it gives a focal point towards which all eyes on the planet can gaze. The drama created by the sport offers a storyline that we can share with others globally. Ultimately it can bind us together.
America has slowly been expanding its interest in the games. The success of the USA team this year has helped in raising our interest further. Although it’s unfortunate that the USA lost over the weekend and won’t be advancing to the next round, that doesn’t mean our attention should wane. Just like all other global citizens in countries around the world, we can realize that it’s not so much about whether “our country” wins or loses, it’s really about what we bring to the sport that can make it special for us. Our paying attention and rooting for other countries taps us into the global drama that is currently unfolding and connects us with others around the planet.
Pick a team and root for them — ultimately all of us win. Who are you pulling for?
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!