World Cup - International

Like Christmas in June: the World Cup!

It’s very easy to conflate futebole with the widespread euphoria of the holidays, especially when you’re sitting in a church service given entirely in the beautiful language of Portuguese, a language which I have a very tenuous grasp of at best (with special thanks to Manu Chao and Little Joy, the latter helmed by the frontman of Brazilian band Los Hermanos). The mind can drift during a mass in my native tongue (i.e. pre-Die Hard-style attacks rebuffed during the many grade school masses that played out in perfunctory fashion, perfunctory like the torture that my Catholic school slacks put to my crotch,), so it was quite easy to alight upon the idea of this jocund congregation’s spirits being roused by the exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo et. al. in a few months rather than the birth of Jesus (good luck getting out of that group, Portugal).

Isn’t it much the same thing after all? I thought while the Lionel Messi-looking guitar player – sem brincadeira – sent melody to strum the already keyed crowd, their hands clapping along with every tune while the words stood before us on a giant projection screen before the left of the altar.  Yes, this wasn’t a Zombieland style church service, the disparity bringing to mind the sight and spectacle of 250 Nigeria supporters dampening out the remainder of the crowd during a Women’s World Cup match against the US at Lincoln Financial Field in 2003 – shame shame for certain, since if it’s your team, your cousin’s wedding, a Saturday night and the ladies are all about the place, then it’s on you to distinguish yourself by choosing whether or not to show some life, though the ones making the proper choice fare best.

To that end, we’ll see the holidays twice this year. Christmas in July? Bah, Christmas in June for nearly the whole month, as even the soccer ignorant will come from the dark reaches of their caves to join in the merry wealth of the celebration, every touch in high definition, the joy of the occasion springing all from their beds (well, in the US, at least) to gather around the glow of their flat screens (a Christmas present with a little foresight) or to hurry off unshaven to the pubs for the first match of the day (some of the first round matches are slated for as early as 7:30 a.m. or 10 a.m., with South Africa living 7 hours ahead of the East Coast).

Other than Christmas, nothing else alters the atmosphere like the World Cup does, though the greatest sporting event in the world offers up a much more frenetic electricity. Wearing a particular jersey, scarf, or team color throughout the city can bring you from the void of disparity and enter you into familiar conversation with total strangers, since these accoutrements signal that you share the same hopes and fears, are given to the very same proclivities of tension and exhilaration as they are. Sure, we all like the jolly, upbeat mood of the holidays – a simple stroll through gaily lit Rittenhouse Square in Philly or NYC’s snow lined Central Park is transformative – but the World Cup remains the only time for hugging, crying, and spilling beer on, and losing your mind with friends you’ve never met.

Peace on Earth and blessings to you and yours. Come June 11th, we draw closer the world community.

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