I found Jordie Dwyer’s ‘observation’ regarding soccer and the World Cup quite an interesting read.
While I know that I’ll not be able to easily convince any true blue Canadian, who grew up playing hockey, baseball and football (the American variety), on the worldwide excitement that World Cup brings, let me try to explain the appeal that soccer has in most other parts of the world.
A major attraction to and love for ‘the beautiful game’ comes from the minimal cost involved in playing it. With next to no equipment being needed, I grew up kicking an old tennis ball with bare feet in the backyard before being gifted a soccer ball. No need for shoulder pads, elbow pads and knee guards. This meant that everyone in my neighbourhood could play.
This still holds true for the children in the favelas of Brazil, the townships of South Africa, the villas miseria of Argentina and the barrios of Venezuela.
The World Cup in itself is a very big deal. Determining the 32 teams that are at World Cup 2018 in Russia commenced with 207 national teams vying to be there. The first of more than 200 qualifying matches occurred in March 2015, a good three years prior to the 32 teams finding a berth in Russia.
A game of soccer is also an interesting dynamic. It is a chess match of sorts played over 90 minutes. Team members, like chess pieces, bring together different skills and play as a unit to bring success to their primary goal.
Granted that, because of the size of the playing surface, repeated action around the goal area is not as plentiful as it would be in a hockey game. However that same size of the field, which can be as large at 70 yards by 120 yards, demands of its athletes endurance and stamina. Some midfielders in fact cover distances from seven to 9.5 miles in 90 minutes of play.
Having officiated at national championships, a marquee match between Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps and youth teams Olympic Marseilles of France and Riverplate of Argentina at Dallas Cup, I still get a thrill when assigned to officiate any soccer match. Recently, while officiating an under 13 Tier 4 boys match in Ponoka, I got goosebumps from watching a passing display between three Ponoka lads in midfield. The resulting goal from the play was just icing on the cake and I had a front row seat to boot!
Being a sports nut I’m just as happy enjoying the frenetic pace of a hockey final, the strategy shown by the skips at a Brier or the hard hitting contact in the CFL.
So, as the world comes together every four years to crown a true world champion, I, with the other billion fans, will be watching. And, I will be eagerly anticipating the World Cup coming to North America in 2026.
Sports nut and soccer referee