Starting today and through July 13, millions of soccer fans will be glued to the television sets watching the World Cup games taking place in Brazil. The protests and strikes preceding the games probably will continue, as sports and politics are often intertwined, and soccer is not an exemption. On the contrary, from the poor neighborhoods to the well-off residential areas of the world, soccer embodies universality and also provides an outlet for many emotions, including the grievances of the masses. The Egyptian soccer team unified the country during times of political change; the Palestinian team for the first time recently qualified in a major international soccer tournament, giving the Palestinian people a renewed sense of urgency and hope to become a nation.
FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) is the soccer governing body organizing the World Cup, based in Switzerland. Its officers are elected from the 209 member countries, and the lucrative side of the sport has undermined the credentials of this organization. Vote-rigging, bribery, kickbacks, profit making for corporations have become a disturbing trend, culminating on allegations of corruption when the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar. The standards to hold this event are very costly. It is like the IMF (International Monetary Fund), with its austerity measures when lending funds to poor nations.
In Brazil, FIFA has imposed demands that have strained the resources of the country. A new stadium was built in the sensitive area of the Amazons, which may not be used at full capacity once the World Cup is over. Critics say that the millions spent on building the stadium to FIFA standards could have been spent on addressing the needs of the population, such as anti-poverty programs. The cities where the games are being held have been militarized. Popular neighborhoods have been displaced in areas near the World Cup and Olympics facilities, some of them under the pretext of removing drug traffickers. This displacement has been called a gentrification travesty. Tickets for the games are expensive, beyond the average Brazilian’s pocket.
The games will go on, and for 90 minutes we will forget about the pains behind this world event, and we will enjoy what is called the beautiful game. Soccer is becoming a very popular sport here, even at the adult professional level. When Team USA plays, we will miss the greatest American soccer player of all times, Landon Donovan. He was not included in the squad, which left a sour taste among many fans. Team USA is in a very tough bracket, and Landon’s talent could be missed.
There are plenty of places in Orange County to enjoy a stadium soccer atmosphere. The exuberance when the goals are scored, when chances are missing, the save of the goalkeepers, the chanting ,can be loudly experienced in Mexican restaurants, Argentinian churrasquerias, English pubs, the German villages in Anaheim and Huntington Beach. See you there, ole ole ole!
|Mon 6/16||5:30 p.m.||Ghana vs. USA|
|Sun 6/22||5:30 p.m.||USA vs. Portugal|
|Thu 6/26||11:30 a.m.||USA vs. Germany|