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The International Writers Magazine: Soccer

World Cup Madness
• Dean Borok
When you consider that seventeen players on the so-far unbeaten French selection are ethnic Algerians, that is the sterling quality of the game that is played in that country.


This is why I was not astounded when, at the conclusion of the regular 90 minute playing time, they had held the highly-estimated German team to a 0-0 tie in a game characterized by superhuman endurance and bonebreaking roughhousing in the steaming heat of the Porto Alegre stadium.

As the game went into overtime, a German goal in the 92nd minute seemed to deflate the Algerians and they caved in, not having the endurance either to execute any more offensive strategy or to prevent the Germans from controlling the play which, despite an Algerian goal in the 120th minute, enabled them to mark another goal and claim a 2-1 victory.

As has been widely observed, the World Cup is as much a cultural event as a sporting tournament, where the world’s national social and geopolitical rivalries are played out in a relatively civilized setting (as opposed to, say, World War I), although it sometimes slides to the level of murderous mayhem (e.g. the soccer war that erupted between Honduras and El Salvador subsequent to an elimination match in 1969, which cost thousands of lives).

Everybody has his favorite. Obviously, for me, it’s Team USA, which meets Belgium later today. The USA exercises such an overwhelming dominance of world affairs that I suppose that I am entertaining a kind of Manifest Destiny doctrine with regard to football. I hope all the excitement doesn’t transform me into some kind of football zombie with a vuvuzela trumpet lodged up my butt. While it would be easy to discount Belgium as a small, insignificant country (the French like to invent ethnic stupidity jokes involving Belgians), it exercises a huge spiritual and karmic presence in the world. Let’s not forget how the world was turned upside-down in a single day, when Napoleon’s Imperial French Army was destroyed in a single day on the fields of Waterloo.

This year is shaping up as a year of revolution in international soccer, with heavily-favored Spain, Italy and England eliminated in the Group Round. Germany came damn close to joining them yesterday, while the Americans are hanging on by a thread and France resurgent. French president François Hollande is already claiming political victory by asserting that Les Bleus only win when a Socialist government is in power. I suppose he is implying that it represents a new cohesion of national stability. That’s his interpretation, although the chaotic discord that led to the French team’s disintegration in 2010 may have played a part in Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat at the ballot box in the following election.

There are plenty of French people I can’t stand, but I admire French society as a cultural and historic whole. I apply the opposite rule for Germany. I have known a couple of decent Germans, but I don’t respect their country, owing not just to the 20th century but because I consider it to be a dour nation, notwithstanding their excellent public face of liberality and tolerance, a necessary public relations image essential for the enhancement of a large commercial enterprise.

The emergence of Latin America as the World Capital of Football, with so many fine teams dominating the sport should enhance that region’s growing influence, and that also includes the huge impact of the 50 million Hispanic Americans, who are a huge segment of the Major League Soccer fan base in this country. New York is inaugurating a new team to play next year in Yankee Stadium, while David Beckham is reportedly in negotiations to establish a team in Miami. What A Wonderful World It Would Be.
© Dean Borok July 1st 2014

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