It’s sometimes lonely being a soccer fan in the states, especially in my small town where soccer lovers are few and far between. The reality is that, for whatever reason, Americans have not embraced, and don’t appear to be any closer to embracing, soccer. Despite the fact that it is the World’s Sport, celebrated and beloved everywhere else, and contains some of the globe’s most notable celebrities, Americans can hardly tolerate “kick ball.” I would like to propose to you, however, that watching the World Cup can actually help you become a better person.
Americans tend to have a notorious international reputation of being extremely self-absorbed, ethnocentric and globally ignorant. We have a tendency to love only what’s American, and to belittle other cultures, practices, and, yes, even sports. This of course makes little sense for Americans, considering our history is one of ethnic and cultural diversity. It also makes very little sense for Christians who believe, as the Bible teaches, that God is the creator and lover of all peoples and nations, and that he has in fact redeemed a people for himself from among every tribe, and tongue. Yet this perception, and sadly all too often reality, remains with Americans. We are cultural elitists! But soccer has the potential to change some of that.
Any soccer lover, even a novice, will tell you that when it comes to the sport’s best Americans don’t stack up. The best players usually come from Europe and South America. Theirs are the stars and heroes of the game. To teams like Brazil and Germany, France and Italy, belong the championships. To truly invest in the game and to adopt a genuine love for it you must follow the international teams. You must watch England’s Premier League, and Germany’s Bunda Slinga. As you do you will see players from all over the world, you will learn about new cultures, and locate cities and countries that you never even knew about. This is all good for us (especially when we consider that the average American can’t even identify the European continent on a map!). What the World Cup offers to us is a chance to open up our minds, to embrace people everywhere and to share in a common, global, love affair that transcends races, cultures, continents, and labels. This game, in many ways, helps us to become better people…possibly even better Christians.
I say all this with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t, on some level, true. So, Americans, watch the World Cup and let soccer help you become a better person…and to start maybe we should stop calling it soccer and join the rest of the world in calling it by its real name: football!