Monday, May 24, 2010

The World Cup

Readers of this blog will probably have guessed that I'm not an avid fan. Fan of what, you ask? Well, organized sports, mostly. Sure, I like trucking over to the stadium to see an occasional something, be it baseball, hockey, basketball, what have you. But I'm there for the experience. And spending time with friends. And the popcorn. I don't have a  team that I see as 'mine', and I don't plant myself on the couch for four hours on a Sunday to watch The Game. And I don't paint myself in team colors and run naked through the stadium. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

My lack of fandom is probably due to the fact that I grew up in a non-sports obsessed household. When over at a party once, the host commented to my mom that they were getting ready 'for the dog pack to run through in September'. My mom gave her a blank stare. Wild dogs? In Seattle? What? 

The University of Washington Huskies. 

I wouldn't have gotten it, either. 

Add my non-sport related upbringing to my attendance at a Division III college, and the fact that I was a rower (not a sport that inspires obsessive watchers)...and well, no rabid fan was produced. 

So when the biggest sporting event in the world rolled around in 2006, I was mostly interested in what Posh Spice was wearing to the stadium rather than what actually happened on the pitch. Plus, the games were played in Germany and had I wanted to watch them, I would have had to rise at some ungodly hour and zip on down to a pub to watch the game since I was not located in Germany's time zone or blessed with a tv that carried the game. And I'm not that kind of fan. Especially when it interferes with my sleep. 

But I'm determined to do a bit better this year. When we were in Johannesburg in September, the airport was awash with World Cup flags, posters, banners, etc. That city was excited. Seriously excited. They were run-around-the-pitch-clothed-in-nothing-but-paint excited. 

NPR ran a story the other day with Warren Ethredge, describing three films that helped him understand soccer and soccer fandom. I haven't seen any of them, but I'm planning on correcting that error before the games begin in Johannesburg on June 11th. 

Here they are:

The Cup

While the soccer World Cup is being played in France, two young Tibetan refugees arrive at a monastery/boarding school in exile in India. Its atmosphere of serene contemplation is somewhat disrupted by soccer fever, the chief instigator being a young student, the soccer enthusiast Orgyen. Prevented by various circumstances from seeing the Cup finals on television in a nearby village, Orgyen sets out to organize the rental of a TV set for the monastery. The enterprise becomes a test of solidarity, resourcefulness and friendship for the students, while the Lama, head of the monastery, contemplates the challenges of teaching the word of Buddha in a rapidly changing world.

Sixty Six

England, the summer of ’66 and the country is about to be consumed by World Cup Fever. For 12-year-old Bernie, the biggest day of his life is looming, the day he becomes a man - his Bar Mitzvah. However Bernie’s North London family seems a little distracted. His father Manny  is concerned about the giant supermarket opening opposite his grocery shop, a business he shares with his more charismatic younger brother, Jimmy  -- and it’s making Manny’s bizarre obsessive compulsive disorder even worse than usual. Between worrying about Manny and Bernie’s older brother Alvie, mother Esther barely has time to notice her better behaved younger son, and the only attention Bernie ever gets from Alvie is a punch for stepping onto the wrong side of their shared bedroom. Bernie believes his Bar Mitzvah is about to change all this. He’ll no longer be the kid everyone ignores, and he envisions and begins to plan the perfect ceremony and reception, where everyone assembled will acknowledge his new status as a man. Unfortunately for Bernie, things don’t quite go according to plan.

First, Manny’s business fails, and suddenly the lavish hotel party that Bernie had been promised is replaced with a tiny affair in his parent’s front room. Worse than that though, the World Cup Final is scheduled for the same day as his Bar Mitzvah. Despite Bernie’s pleas, Manny and Esther won’t hear of moving the date, as “England will never get through to the final.” 

Kicking It (Documentary)

Kicking It chronicles the lives of seven players taking a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent their country at the Cape Town 2006 Homeless World Cup. Najib from war torn Afghanistan; Alex from the slums of Kenya; Damien and Simon from the drug rehab clinics of Dublin, Ireland; Craig from the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina; Jesus from the overflowing public shelters of Madrid, Spain, and Slavan from the shadow culture of the illegal rural immigrants to the big city of St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Homeless World Cup that was first established in 2001 to give homeless people the opportunity to better their lives through sports. Five years later, 20,000 homeless people had competed on street soccer teams, with 500 players selected to represent 48 countries in the fourth annual Homeless World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, in the summer of 2006. Here, seven players are profiled who become heroes on the soccer pitch and find a way out of their situations. 

Am I allowed to add Bend It Like Beckham to this list? Because I seriously love that movie. 

Two things: I realized, after I wrote this post, that I spent two hours on Saturday, sitting on the couch, glued to the tv, watching the Sounders game. So I guess I qualify as that fan. But I draw the line at painted naked running. For all our sakes. 
Secondly, our library doesn't carry any of the movie titles (above). So I may not be seeing them afterall. I did request Bend It Like Beckham, though. For the millionth time.