by Ernest Barteldes
A couple of weeks ago I wrote here how excited I was about the FIFA World Cup and also how the American people seemed to have warmed up a little more about the competition that they were pretty much oblivious to since I moved here from Brazil almost a decade ago.
But as the competition winds down, I can’t help but think how weird the 2010 cup has been (not using the past tense… there are two games this weekend). First of all, both 2006 finalists were eliminated in the first round (France was about politics… but Italy?). Then you had more teams from the Americas among the final 8 than ever… and then one by one they fell, including two of the favorites (Brazil and Argentina… how much did I dream of having them meet at the final), leaving only Uruguay to defend itself against a trio of European teams.
But stranger than that was how everyone was suddenly into it, even after the US succumbed to Ghana on the first knockout round. Everywhere I went during a game, people were watching. Just yesterday, I was walking towards the headquarters of the Latin Alternative Music Conference and saw a bunch of people at the Beer Bar on E 45th St. attentively watching the game, and screaming ‘goool’ when Spain scored against Germany.
And this Sunday, whoever wins will be doing so for the very first time — something that hasn’t happened since France took the Cup in 1998.
Of course, there will always be the soccer haters. Just the other day, an elderly man at a midtown watering hole called soccer a ‘fall’ game, and said he thought that because the players fell to the ground at the slightest bump from an opposing player. And there are the idiotic right-wing pundits who have used the World Cup to attack immigrants, saying that they are destroying the American way of life.
For those, all I can say is ‘screw you.’ I just didn’t say that out loud to the gentleman sitting next to me out of respect for his age. Soccer is here to stay, and if you don’t like it… well, switch the channel and go watch some daytime TV soap.