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Thoughts On The 2010 World Cup

Ok, I know this is a football blog, more specifically a Saints blog. But sometimes, you can’t help but be drawn by other sports or topics, like the world’s biggest tournament in the world’s most popular sport.

As a kid, I would spend parts of my summer visiting my grandparents in Mexico. I was always the outsider, the gringo and I had a hard time making friends with some of the locals. I was a middle class American kid living in the inner city. But despite our differences, there was always one thing we would bond over, a common language that needed no Twelve kids, various ages, chasing one ball, trying it to kick it between two rocks on a warm summer evening until it was time to go in its purest form. This is where my love for the game and sports in general was forged.

Today, the US plays England in one of the most anticipated matchups in recent history, and I can’t help but feel the same excitement I felt when I woke up the morning of the NFC Championship Game. Why the NFC Championship Game and not the Super Bowl? Because, like the Saints before the game, the US has never reached elite status in the soccer world. A win would go along way in gaining respectability.

These teams last played each other in the World Cup in 1950 in perhaps the greatest upset in World Cup history. A group of hastily gathered ragtag American players upset the professional English team, considered the best in the world at that time. The lone goal, called “the shot heard round the world” in soccer circles, came from a 26 year old Haitian immigrant named Joe Gaetjens who, just a few days before the World Cup, was washing dishes at a cafe in New York to pay for his accounting classes at Columbia University.

What else does the World Cup have in common with the Saints?

The World Cup can be such a large source of civic pride for the host country, comparable to the explosion of Saints mania after Katrina. In 2006, Germany hosted the world’s tournament. Throughout the tournament, you could see German flags waving in the streets, fans decorated in the team’s black, red and gold colors. It’s amazing what the World Cup did for Germany, a country that has had a hard time finding a national identity and usually reserved in expressing its national pride since the days of World War 2.

This is also the first World Cup played on African soil. You know
This is the first World Cup played on African soil. You can only imagine how excited South Africa is in hosting the world’s premiere event. (Imagine the Saints playing in the 2013 Super Bowl!) So much money, time, and effort went into putting the tournament together, to show the world that it is back and united as ever after one of the darkest times in their countries history. We forget that the apartheid policies were reversed just 16 years ago. Have you ever seen a people so united?

If you’ve ever sat down and watched a few soccer games, you’ll realize that there are as many soccer styles as NFL playbooks. I’ve always been a fan of watching Brazil play their game built on speed, passing, and lots of flair and creativity. Perhaps, they are the Greatest Show on Turf. Italy, much like the Baltimore Ravens or New York Jets last season, depend on a strong defense and like to adavance the ball slowly up the field and create holes in the defense, much like a running game.

And if you listen closely enough to the American fans at today’s game, you’ll hear a familiar tune well known to Saints fans here in New Orleans. Yes, I want to be in that number, when the Yanks (the world’s nickname for the US soccer team) go marching in.

I truly believe the US will beat England today. And it won’t be as big of an upset as some people may think it is. America’s time to join the world’s soccer elite has come.

Well, now you know what I’ll be waking up to every day for the next couple of weeks..some of the best athletes in the world playing a beautiful game with grace, the skill and strategy involved in this perpetual motion chess match, nations swelling with pride after every goal.

And those annoying vuvuzela horns.

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