As I write this, Germany and Argentina are still neck and neck for the World Cup title. This has been a memorable tournament, filled with drama, flair, and enough journalistic hyperbole to make even the staunchest soccer skeptic a fan. I’ve spent most of my life as a fan of sports where individuals determined the outcome, and physicality ruled the day. Both of these traits were in prime form for the 2014 World Cup, with international stars cashing in on their promise (or not – both are equally exciting talking points), and bodies bandied about like a teenager defending their tattoos to their parents. Doesn’t matter if they were diving or not, or if the contact was compelling enough to catapult the players into the air – they were catapulted, and that’s all that matters. Add in some bite marks and the wager of continental and national pride, and I don’t know what anyone could dislike about the World Cup.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no soccer enthusiast – notice I still call it soccer. Sure I played as a youth, even scored a goal in high school – never mind that we won 10-0, mine was the go-ahead goal that gave us an 8 goal lead and squelched their imminent comeback. I have to believe that everyone would agree how fun it is to play, but watching it is a different story. It’s a low-scoring, painfully technical game where most of the time is spent waiting for opportunities to materialize. At it’s worst, it’s a glorified staring contest, entire teams doing their best not to blink. When you add in the fact that ties are permissible conclusions, it’s no wonder people carry a stigma into the sport. But as every good American does, I care about professional soccer every four years. I’m not ashamed to admit it, the fun of soccer rests in the complete lack of visibility until the World Cup. Isn’t the value of commodities determined by their scarcity?
If you’re a futbol apologist, fear not. I’ve seen the light. I spent most of June in Brazil, and the energy and excitement of the World Cup was infectious. Streets were electric, the sheer energy of the people around us was contagious. It was impossible to resist. Add to that my experience seeing the USA vs. Ghana game live with my fiancé, and international futbol has officially gained a new supporter. We’re even making plans to see the next World Cup in Russia. It was an unforgettable experience.
I’m genuinely sad to see the World Cup come to an end. Not just because I was invested in it due to geographic circumstance (for a few days we were in Brazil, it was dumping rain, and we were stuck indoors with nothing else to do but watch every single game). It wasn’t even because I got to feel the energy of a live game, either. No, the source of my newly minted nostalgia is because I was there. I was in Brazil, a country that has been on my shortlist for desired destinations for as long as I can remember, my first foray to the South American continent. People asked us – before we left, while we were there, after – did we go for the World Cup? And the answer was a resounding no. That Brazil was hosting the Copo de Mundo gave us an excuse to go, no doubt, but it was not the motivation to go. We went because it was an adventure. That inimitable feeling of our trip to Brazil permeated every World Cup game, the most popular international tournament becoming emblematic of an intensely meaningful personal experience. The USA – Ghana game was great, but the drama and excitement of its 90 minute existence paled in comparison to the fleeting, speechless moment at Cristo Redento, the final second that Andrea would be referred to as my “girlfriend.”
I’m sad to see the World Cup end. But as is the case with all things, that sadness underscores a deeper feeling of joy that I got to experience something so wonderful, so powerful, so existentially fulfilling, that to see it symbolically come to an end makes me long to relive it again. We’ll see you in Moscow.