Saturday, July 14, 2018

How do you handle a sporting event when you honestly care less who wins?

When it comes to the World Cup, I find the world of international soccer to be interesting – moreso than the hype we have surrounding the Super Bowl or NBA playoffs that seem to last forever.
Yet with the world of international soccer reaching a peak this weekend – and the World Cup tourney bringing a month’s worth of activity to an end with a championship game Sunday, I have to admit I’m not all that enthused.

WHEN THE NATIONAL teams of France and Croatia take to the pitch to try to stake their claim to having the best football club in the world, there will be those thousands of fans packing their way into a stadium in Moscow, and many thousands more gathered around television sets for a lifetime experience.

I’m likely to be watching on television, hoping something will happen to make the game itself memorable.

But I honestly can’t say I’m rooting for either side. The idea of France vs. Croatia brings about a bit of a “blah” in me.

I’m sort of glad to see that in the semi-final match on Wednesday, England fell short of Croatia. Mainly because I can’t think of anything less interesting than the idea of an international championship coming down to a brawl between England and France.

I KNOW THE history.

I don’t doubt that to the English (and only the English, not anybody from Scotland, Wales or Ireland), it would be a moment of great historic significance if they had been able to win a World Cup championship against their historic arch-rival. Instead, they’ll settle for playing in a consolation game Saturday against Belgium – a match I won’t be able to watch, because I’ll have to do reporter-type work that day.

But perhaps I have too much of an all-American Yankee Doodle Dandy in me. I was interested in the World Cup this year for the vision it gave us of the rest of the world. Not to see the one-time world powers try to pretend that history remains the same and that the world revolves around a London/Paris axis.

While some might think that makes me a natural to root for Croatia to win come Sunday, I just don’t see it happening.

LARGELY BECAUSE I have had friends in my lifetime who are of Serbian ethnic origins. Somehow, I suspect they’d pay me a “surprise” visit and feed me a meal of knuckle sandwiches if they thought I was somehow rooting for their nation’s historic rival.

I know for some people who think of themselves as soccer fans, their interest in World Cup ’18 diminished last autumn when the U.S. national team couldn’t even qualify to be among the 32 teams that played this year.

Trinidad and Tobago will be places that get demonized in their minds, what with how it was their team that managed to knock the United States out of the running, and which spared fans the world over the sight and sound of the “American Outlaws” group leading “U-S-A” chants all over the one-time Soviet Union.

For me, I am a fan of el Tri, the national equipo de futbol of Mexico, and usually find myself taking interest in all the teams from nations that are a part of the Americas. When Hirving Lozano (nicknamed “Chucky”) scored the lone goal against Germany, that was my personal highlight of the 2018 version of the World Cup.

SO WHEN MEXICO got knocked out of the running by Brazil, then Brazil lost in the quarterfinals to Belgium, my own intense rooting interests in this year’s World Cup declined. They diminished altogether when Uruguay lost to France – who may wind up winning their third World Cup tourney ever come Sunday.

Putting them behind Brazil (with five titles) historically, but well ahead of anybody else in the Americas.

The World Cup is one of those periodic athletic events. We’ll get it again come 2022 in Qatar. We’ll get to see Middle Eastern sheiks staging the event in all the opulence possible for matches played out in the desert.

Yet I don’t doubt there are those fans of soccer who already have shifted their attention to 2026. That’s the year we’ll get to see World Cup activity in the United States – the first time since 1994. Along with Mexico (which had it in 1970 and 1986) and Canada (never before). We’ll have to see if the nations of North America can play nice with each other while the world watches.


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