Hola! Buon Giorno! Oi! Guten Tag! Can you believe four years have passed since the last World Cup? Can you believe there's a word for things that occur every four years?
You'll notice that "hello" and "marhaba" and "jambo" and"lei ho" were not included in the list of greetings. That was on purpose! No country from North America, Africa, Asia, or the Middle East has ever won the World Cup. So you should not concern yourself with those places (unless you like bribery . . . then you should head to Qatar).
Though I don't watch much professional soccer, my life is engulfed by the sport. I think about soccer. I read about soccer. I spend at least a half an hour a day daydreaming about drills and tactics. I also spend quite a bit of time talking to other soccer coaches. I play soccer on the weekends with people named Gio and Guillermo and Felipe. I run practices year round. I coach both high school and youth players.
Because of this, I also assume that other people are thinking about soccer all the time. This might be true, or it might be that people view me as a soccer guy (I have a lot of shirts with soccer balls on them) and if they have any association with soccer, then it comes up in conversation with me. This makes me think that soccer is the primary thing on most people's minds. So it was revealing (and a little mind-blowing) when I conducted some interviews about the World Cup. The main thing that I learned was that the general population (as represented by people hanging around the English Office and the high school kids in my classes) is NOT thinking about soccer. There's some actual information buried in this preview, but I'll warn you, getting to it isn't going to be pretty (except for the beefcake pics).
The following statement represents the opinions of several women I interviewed:
"You should put a picture of Ronaldo with his shirt off."
My friend and colleague Stacey confided in me that she's "heard great things about Pele."
Chantal knew that there was a "theme song by Pit Bull."
Once I got the World Cup discussion rolling in the office, I overheard two English teachers discussing Halfthor Julius Bjornnsson.
"Halfthor Bjornnsson? What team does he play for? Croatia? The Netherlands?"
"Oh, he's not a soccer player. He plays "The Mountain" on Game of Thrones."
They put a piece of paper high on the wall in the English office that marks exactly how tall the Mountain is. This is what The Mountain looks like. He would be difficult to cover on a corner kick.
I asked them if they had any insight on the World Cup, and the nerdier of the two (no mean feat) looked at me and with great sincerity, said, "Luxembourg . . . Trinidad and Tobago . . . Ivory Coast . . . Lichtenstein." I agreed that those were countries in the world, but leveled with them that-- aside from Ivory Coast-- they were not represented in the World Cup.
Since the Caucasian nerds were useless, I decided to ask the more ethnically diverse folks. This didn't help much. Our token Jamaican woman said she was rooting for Brazil. The new teacher, who is half-Spanish, said she is "going for Spain." And the Greek guy with the fantastically ethnic name of Arghiris admitted that he knew nothing about soccer, but every four years he "pulls out the blue and white." That would be quadrennially.
Of all my students, only one spoke with confidence. He said he watched a lot of FIFA and the thing to remember was "don't waste your time rooting for America." A real patriot.
And then there is my friend Terry. You may remember him from several soccer expeditions.
While Terry can be annoyingly opinionated on many matters, there is one thing that he knows inside and out: the state capitals. Even the Dakotas. Terry occasionally comes off as being mildly autistic.
While Terry's comprehensive knowledge of geography is impressive and annoying, he also knows quite a bit about soccer. He is the boy's varsity coach at our school, he still plays (when he's not injured) and he is an avid fan. When it comes to soccer, you can trust him. Here's what he has to say:
The United States has a 40% chance of surviving their group. Their problem is defense, so they are going to have to score first and outscore teams.
The players to watch are Argentina's Sergio Aguero, Brazil's Neymar, and Uruguay's Luis Suarez.
Everyone believes the favorite is Germany and Terry is no exception, but his dark horse picks are Belgium and Ghana. Ghana is a bit young-- with an average age of 24-- but they have nine Premier League players
Belgium's team-- led by Eden Hazard-- is regarded as the "golden generation." This could be a good thing, but Terry also sees it as a kiss of death. He reminded me of 2002, when the U.S. upset the golden generation Portuguese team, and how the U.S. pulled the same stunt against the golden generation Columbian team in 1994.
That's all I've got. The important thing is that most people in America don't give a flying frack about soccer. And some people-- especially the ladies-- don't care much about how the ball bounces, they just like shirtless pictures of fit men. One of these ladies was despondent that Fabio Cannavaro retired and would not be playing for Italy. This is for her:
And finally, a student named Hector, who likes to write computer code and doesn't know anything about the World Cup, advised me that I should "include a lot of hashtags in your post." Okay, Hector.