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June 18, 2010

World Cup Soccer 2010 Makes History

Soccer is not Canada’s best known professional game even though more kids (boys and girls) play it than any other sport. But elsewhere in the world millions play soccer and billions will be watching the World Championships in South Africa from June 11 to July 11. In Berlin in 2006 some 3 billion people (half the people in the world) watched the event that comes every 4 years. It was noted that it was the first time 3 billion people have ever done something simultaneously. With3D and HD it is expected more will watch this time.

The cost will be in the 4.6 billion range with broadcast rights going at 2.15 billion. Millions will be made in advertising. Almost all of the seats have been sold – mostly to non-Africans because of the cost. There are tremendous global economic, social and cultural impacts.

The Competition

There will be 32 teams playing in 10 location and 106 games Brazil is the number one team in the ranking with Spain number 2 and Portugal number 3. There will be a lot of country related partying going on over the next month in bars and homes everywhere.


The second smallest country in South America is Uruguay and I will have an eye on its games. (They are ranked 16^th in the world.) My daughter is married to a Uruguain who came to Canada when he was 12 and is a Nipissing University grad and an avid soccer fan. His two brothers and his mother live there and he, my daughter and their two children have a home there outside of the capitol Montevideo.

Uruguay has 3.4 million people compared to its neighbour Brazil which has 170 million. Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930 and won again in 1950. Brazil has won 5 times.

A Soccer Epiphany

While visiting my daughter recently we took several trips to Chuy a town on the border between Uruguay and Brazil. The border runs down the main Street. A fascinating mix of Uruguaians who speak Spanish and Brazillians who speak Portugese and there is a reasonable amount of English.

On one occasion we decided to go to a recommended restaurant on the Brazil side of the street. We went with some German friends we had met. They were world travellers in their Volkswagen Van and my daughter and her family drove from Canada to Uruguay with their kids in a VW van recently. Germany is soccer crazy and our German friend was no exception. He had watched many top games over the years and Germany has won the World Cup 3 times including 2006.

While eating lunch he froze and pointed at a man that came into the restaurant. He said “That’s Emerson”. Emerson (Emerson Ferreira da Rosa) recently retired – played on many championships teams and played many years in Europe for different top teams including Javentus, Real Madrid, and Milan.

Brazilian Soccer Star (retired) “Emerson” with fan Mateo de Leon Mackey. Gustavo de Leon Photo.

There was a line up for autographs and photos in seconds. My 10 year old grandson was in line in no time and got his photo ( and a hug) taken with Emerson (check him out on Wikepedia). We will have a special interest in how Germany does in the World cup. They are ranked 6^th and lost in 2002 to Brazil. A joke states that if you chose 11 Brazilians at random they would qualify for the World Cup.

The Messi – ah

Five foot seven Lionel Messi the Argentinian forward – who Macleans magazine nicknames the Messi-ah is the most feared and most admired man in the tournament and “may be the best ever”. Messi’s games may be games that will go down in History. The playoffs begin Saturday June 26 with the final on Sunday July 11 . I will be looking for the Messi-ah and for Uruguay and Brazil and Germany. Canada did not make the cut.

Books Worth a Look

John Doyle the Globe & Mail’s TV critic and soccer reporter is a passionate soccer fan and has covered many World Cups. His new book The World is a Ball – The Joy, Madness & Meaning of Soccer tells about his World Cup adventures and has a section on the 2010 games. A great Father’s Day gift. If you can find the masterpiece Soccer in Sun & Shadow by Uruguian author Eduardo Galeano you will have a great read!) (Abe Books.com)

A quote on the cover of Macleans states that “some people think football is a matter of life or death. I can assure you that it is much more serious than that”. Can 3 billion people be wrong?

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