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I never paid attention to the World Cup before this year. While I had awareness of its existence, I didn’t really have any interest in it until 2018.
Growing up in Canada, neither I nor my siblings played: we were a golf and swimming family in the summer and hockey, ski and volleyball in the winter. And it’s not like we had a soccer team to follow…
In the US, besides a basic awareness of DC United‘s existence, a few games at RFK Stadium and my nephew Lucas playing in a rec league in Southern California, soccer simply was just not something I checked out much. Get this: working at the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1992, I had access to tickets to pretty much any event. I didn’t even go to a soccer game… Blasphemy.
It wasn’t until I spent so much time in Germany last year that I realized the depth of football’s integration into the European culture. I started to pay attention. In Munich, home of Bayern, it was difficult not to. I saw the city’s passion for its team everywhere: on billboards, in store windows, in bars, on newspaper covers, on the U. Atop IBM’s Watson IoT Centre’s 27th-floor office view, to the East, the Allianz Arena’s grandeur is in full display. I was actually in Munich in 2017 when Bayern won its record-breaking 5th consecutive Bundesliga championship.
But to be completely honest, there is a guy… actually, a team of guys that influenced my discovery of soccer. At IBM, even though I didn’t understand the language, I could sense my BMW teammates’ attachment to their team. I felt the shift in their mood based on the team’s performance the day before. I eventually wondered: could getting an understanding of this game and gaining an appreciation for their team bring me closer to them and their culture?
I started to watch Bayern games in my hotel room after work. I made small soccer talk with the colleagues upon arriving in the office the following morning: “Nice win… Of course, I watched!” After a while, I started to understand the context of the newspaper’s headlines. And I began to feel the inclusion of the city’s adoring relationship with its team.
At Allianz Arena on a frigid November evening, I was lucky enough to see Bayern win. After the game, at FC Bayern Erlebniswelt, the club’s museum on the structure’s lower level, I witnessed the team’s rich history and experienced its fans’ emotional connection to it.
Naturally, I was interested in following the World Cup this year. I prepared by watching Fox’s Phenoms series. I then alternated watching World Cup Today, World Cup Live and World Cup Tonight. I discovered and immediately enjoyed Alexi Lalas.
With Germany defending it’s 2014 World Cup accomplishment and 7 Bayern Munich players called to represent their country at the highest level, I would cheer for the German squad. Even though their Russian journey was shorter than expected, I kept watching.
And I loved what I saw: a really physical game, yet, in contrast to hockey, no fights; unbelievable discipline and athleticism from young and veteran footballers; images and stories from a proud host country that really interested me; the raw definition of being fanatic from humans from all over the planet. Most of all, I saw a sport that brings people of the world together in a global unification like I’ve never imagined before. For 30 days, we all watched the same games, at the same time, no matter what. For the love of football and country… Incroyable. On social media, I enjoyed seeing my friends’ game-related rituals, celebrations and I felt their disappointments and heart-breaks. I have fond memories of a weekend day spent on my couch in Reston watching quarterfinal games with my family. JHB won the Ballon d’Or guys! I just love an underdog success story.
I cheered loudest for France, the country of my ancestors. Félicitations pour la victoire! Accrochez votre deuxième étoile avec fierté! In the end, in watching the World Cup, I experienced closeness, especially as I rejoiced in seeing some of the sights of my favorite city in the world, Paris, filled with its elated people, fans, celebrating their countrymen’s performance. Chapeau!