Thursday, June 14, 2018

World Cup won’t come to Chicago in ’26; truly is our city's sporting loss

International soccer fans will get excited for the next month beginning Thursday, what with the World Cup tourney (played every four years) beginning with host nation Russia taking on the national team of Saudi Arabia.

We won't get a 2026 sequel … 
Considering that the U.S. national team didn’t play well enough in qualifying rounds to get a spot in this year’s World Cup, I expect that many U.S. fans will try to downplay the significance of the event and will focus their attention on 2026 – when the tourney will be played on the North American continent.

SOCCER FANS OF this nation will be able to see World Cup matches without having to make international trips – except those of us from Chicago.

For the North American host effort (which will have opening matches in Mexico and Canada along with quarterfinals matches in other cities and the championship game possibly in the New York metropolitan area) is bypassing the Second City.

Not that this is a surprise. Back in March, city officials said they didn’t want to cooperate with the demands of FIFA (the international association that governs soccer around the world) in order to be considered as a host city. They also have memories of U.S. Soccer Federation officials being less-than-respectful to bids to include Chicago in U.S. World Cup presentations for other years past.

Of course, anybody who pays attention to the world of international soccer knows that FIFA is the kind of organization that expects everybody to cater to it (to kiss its fat behind with a symbolic big, wet sloppy smooch). Chicago didn’t want to do so – so we’re out.

THOSE OF US from Chicago will have to settle for the play of the Chicago Fire (and possibly that new team to be created to play in a stadium to be built somewhere on the city’s North Side). Either that, or travel to places like Kansas City, Cincinnati or Nashville – the places under consideration for matches that are closest to Chicago.

Either that, or we’ll have to relive the memories of 1994 – which was the only other time the World Cup tourney was played in the United States.

… to the 1994 World Cup opening ceremonies, which were held at Soldier Field
That year, the championship game was in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, with semi-final games in Washington, D.C. and New York. But the opening ceremonies of the month-long event, along with the initial matches, were played right in Soldier Field.

As in the aging stadium on the lakefront that had significant historic character; not the current structure with the spaceship-like structure built within its outer walls.

BUT THIS TIME around, we won’t be a part of the international spectacle – which likely is the lasting aftermath of the 2016 Olympic affair.

Remember how then-Mayor Richard M. Daley was all anxious to have the Summer Olympic Games for that year held in Chicago, only to have the International Olympic Committee prefer the thought of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro. And the thought of Chicago finishing fourth out of the four finalist cities?

Our political people felt burned by the world of international sports, and it seems Rahm Emanuel had no desire for a repeat. Which means we won’t be a part of the spectacle, while places like Edmonton (in Alberta, Canada) and Orlando (the home of Mickey Mouse) will be.
The other three times ...

We’ll most likely have to settle for watching the spectacle on television, just as we’ll be doing for the next month.

AND WITHOUT THE U.S. national team’s involvement, I’m sure the level of xenophobic nonsense from NASCAR fans trying to claim that Southerners driving cars around an asphalt track is a significant sporting event will rise to all-time highs in coming weeks.
… the World Cup came ...

If anything, that aspect if part of what intrigues me about international soccer – a significant athletic spectacle (you try running up and down a pitch for 90-plus minutes at a time) that manages to infuriate some so significantly.
… to the North American continent

It was nice (sort of) to see President Donald Trump use one of his less-noxious Tweets to say a continental World Cup was a wonderful spectacle.

Although I also have to admit a more pleasing notion is that Trump’s presidency will be long over by the time the 2026 World Cup is actually staged – all the more reason our society should look forward to the event.


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