Soccer –A Global Phenomenon
The Iraqi nation celebrates Asia Cup 2007 victory
World Cup 2010 brought South Africa into the limelight
Soccer is much more than a sports
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death...I can assure them it is much more serious than that”. These lines said by Bill Shankley epitomize the importance of football in the hearts of players and fans alike.
It may be known as Shu Kyu in Japan, Football in England, Calcio in Italy and Soccer in America but it has the power to bring nations together. There is no denying the fact that this simple game is the most played, the most watched and the most popular game in the World.
One has to wonder why this so simple a sport catches the imagination of so many a people? Maybe it is the culture surrounding the sport that makes it such a global phenomenon or it may be, it is due to the national pride that it arouses and the passion that it spurs in the hearts of people that this game has been called by many as ‘larger than life itself’. One can also never neglect the aspect of soccer’s world wide media coverage. Through television the artistry of great players and the performance of great teams can now be brought into the homes of people who would previously have only heard or read of their exploits. Then, there is the game itself whose simplicity alone magnetizes people towards it
Soccer unlike Cricket, Baseball, Basketball and Hockey has a global fan following. Cricket has a numbered twelve to fifteen nations which play on a regular basis, the same can be said for the aforementioned games. However, there are more than 180 nations who have national football teams and play in international competitions.
Soccer is basically a very straight forward game. All it needs is a football to be kicked around. The natural reflex of any human being, even for a new-born baby is to kick. Keeping this instinctual habit in mind, this game is thought to be very close to the nature of a human being. Football made out of rags, out of plastic bags,pick -up games on the street, the beach, in a backyard or an abandoned lot, gym bags or crumpled coats to serve as goal posts, playing in sneakers, boots, street shoes or barefoot, football as many have noted is a game characterized by improvisation. On a more recognized level, a referee, two linesman and eleven players per side are also necessary along with a grass laden pitch.
Soccer as a sport also bears numerous advantages. Let’s see the physical aspect of soccer first. The enormous running that one does while playing football keeps one extremely fit, not only fit but it also enhances stamina and endurance as well. It gives one a complete work-out in simple terms. The mental training that soccer gives is of the most importance. Anyone who plays soccer gets mentally strong in the process. Soccer does not only depend on the talent of the player, mental strength has as bigger a role to play too. Anyone who lacks determination, the never say-die attitude, the will to stand up after falling down can never be victorious in soccer. Soccer builds these characteristics in all of its players.
However, anyone who thinks of soccer as just a sport is hugely mistaken, soccer can better be known as a global phenomenon. The biggest competition of soccer has to be the World Cup. This mega event captures the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people belonging to various nations. 32 countries take part in the mega event and one nation gets the glory of lifting the golden cup. The World Cup is a global spectacle, a phenomenon which takes over the world. The World Cup becomes the head-line for almost every news channel across the globe.
Almost two billion people watched the men’s final match that was played in Paris, France, in June 1998. From South Africa to Russia, from America to Japan, from Brazil to China and from England to Turkey, every country hopes of hosting this prestigious event. What is it about the World Cup that makes it a mega event?
The Football World Cup’s global appeal is the reason why many nations-some of whose own football teams are merely competent- vie to host the World Cup. Soccer is integrated into many facets of life, soccer in general and the World Cup in particular provides a generous supply of sociological, cultural, linguistic, political and historical data for investigations of the modern world. It is a chance for the host country to display its culture to the whole world. For the world to recognize that the nation is as hospitable as it gets the chance as well to portray a better image of the nation as a whole. There are many instances which make it clear how a Soccer World Cup has proved to benefit the hosting nation in various ways.
Let’s cite the example of the recently concluded World Cup in South Africa. For the first time in the game’s history an African nation was chosen as a host. There were many doubts about how the South African’s would deal with the responsibility of hosting the World Cup. Some thought that the corruption would take its toll and that the World Cup would be a total flop due to that. Many thought that the security problems were a major issue and that even if any other African nation was to be chosen, these problems would sustain. There were also doubts as to how the ‘black’ residents of South Africa would react to the people who horde in from various countries to be enthralled by this huge bonanza. With all these doubts, the World Cup got started and at the end of it all, there are no doubts that World Cup 2010-South Africa was the most successful and entertaining of them all. This successful hosting of the World Cup did not only improve the image of South Africa in the minds of other countries, but it improved the image of the African continent as a whole. Africa stood like a desert for many tourists and as a place of ‘thieves’, but now people find Africa an extremely entertaining place. Before the World Cup, people related Africa with corruption, racism and crime and now it is thought as hospitable, exotically beautiful and a cultural landmark.
Another example can be the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea. Japan, a nation which was almost completely destroyed by the two atomic bombs in 1945, removed all doubts that it was once one of the cruelest nations on the planet. South Korea and Japan’s cultural values were truly recognized by the World as they displayed their brightest colors during the mega event. There is also no doubt that co-hosting the World Cup also brought the two nations hugely close to each other. Only physical boundaries now separate the two countries.
Another aspect of the World Cup in general and soccer as a whole is that rivalries are better sought out on a football pitch than on a battle ground. Rivalries like France-Senegal, England-Australia, USA-Iran, Argentina-Brazil are some examples. These battles are also a lot more enjoyable and by far less destructive or should one say entertaining than those battles which commence with fighter jets and all.
There is also no denying that a small nation like Senegal can never think of ousting France in any imaginable field but their popular defeat of France in the 2002 Soccer World Cup is a feat which has glued the whole nation for a long time to come. Many other upsets in the history of soccer World Cup go on to show how a single victory on the football pitch can turn the whole nation’s fortunes.
Most importantly, people who gather from around the globe in the hosting country get a chance to know residents of other nations in a more direct way. This helps in rooting out the misconceptions about each other’s nations and beliefs which helps in enhancing the relationship in a more cordial way.
Apart from the World Cup, inter-continental competitions like the Concaf Cup, Asian Cup and the African Cup of Nations also help in augmenting relations amongst the nations within the continent. Iraq’s victory in the Asian Cup in 2007 is seen as a point for the nation to regroup, to stress again that only a small element of the nation supports extremism, the real nation itself is as friendly as any other nation. It also gave a message that the talent in Iraq is enormous as winning such a competition in a state of civil war is an outstanding achievement. Hence, soccer again succeeded in making the World realize the potential of a nation.
All these examples and instances imply to a very crucial point, the point being that soccer has the power to give nations a language, a language that can be heard and understood by each and every nation. Soccer is a lot bigger than being just a sport; it is a bond that keeps on bonding nations together.
Soccer is just not limited to national competitions. There are football leagues within the countries as well and football teams of different cities play in those competitions. There are also inter -continental club competitions which also play their part in interaction of people of different countries with each other. The Barclays Premier League of England, La Liga of Spain, Serie A of Italy have all fan following out of their country, more so out of their continents. The UEFA Champions League Final is also watched as vigorously as the Soccer World Cup Final.
Hence, it would not be wrong to say that soccer binds the people of a nation together through these football leagues, binds a continent together through the intercontinental competitions on club level as well as nations level and finally connects the whole world through its biggest competition-The Soccer World Cup.