Puerto Rico is not a big soccer town. Being a U.S. territory, we tend to follow America's lead. The U.S. is not big on soccer so we are not. Also, like most of the Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic, etc.) we follow baseball with way more passion. Finally, I'm a huge American Football fan, and a bigger New York Jets fan.
So, I find myself very pleasantly surprised about being totally caught up in this World Cup "thing".
Come to think of it, it is not an overnight, sudden thing. Ever since, the World Cup was held in the United States in 1994, it has slowly been gaining traction with the American public and therefore, Puerto Rico. But what really busted the doors wide open for soccer here in the island was the acquisition of Puerto Rico's local TV channels by the big Latin-American media outlets several years back. Once Telemundo and Univision, who cater to most if not all of Central and South America plus the huge Latin audience in the U.S., reached our shores, the World Cup came with them and we haven't looked back since.
Pretty much since the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the interest here has been growing and growing. Now, it finally caught up to me.
It's a beautiful game
Have you ever sat down to watch a soccer game? The skill involved is incredible. People seem to focus on the athletic part of it and how much soccer players run in the course of a game but it is a lot more than that. The way they control the ball with their feet... wow. And the game is so exciting. Every goal is a big moment.
It has truly Worldwide ramifications
I'm used to the usual sports suspects: NBA, MLB, NFL et. al. When the Jets finally win the Super Bowl (oh yes they will! Hey! Stop laughing!) they will be called World Champions but that's technically not true. In the best of cases, you have the pro teams in the U.S., there might be some Canadian teams but that's the extent of it. In the World Cup, it's literally the entire World playing, and therefore also watching. Nations send the very best players to represent them and there's none of the restrictions that come from Olympic type events. Pro, amateur or unknown. If you can play at that level, you are in. So when you hear someone say: "Germany is playing Brazil." It's like, Germany is really playing Brazil. Nation against Nation.
Latin America Stands Proud
This Cup has been a very strong showing for Latin American countries. By the time the group stage was over, half of the field in the round of 16 were from Central or South America plus the U.S. so almost every game had my attention. As of this writing, Brazil and Argentina are still in the running. Which reminds me...
Costa Rica Rules!!!
OK, a lot of this has to do with the fact that I have an uncle who is from Costa Rica but this team has inspired everyone in this World Cup. Analysts and commentators all agreed that Costa Rica was a pushover. That they would not survive the group stage. That they were in one of the "groups of death" and an easy target.
Here's what really happened.
They won their group. A group in which they were joined by three former World Cup champions: Italy, England and Uruguay(they have won it twice). Then they beat Greece in the Round on 16, then gave Holland a run for their money, where they finally lost in a penalty kick-off. They were never beaten on the field.(They beat Uruguay and Italy. Tied with England. Penalty kick-offs with Greece and Holland) Isn't it fun to root for the underdog? They will likely return home as heroes. Well played Ticos. Well played.
Now, in the semi-finals the team I picked to win (Germany) is still in the running. I am in no way an expert here but I consulted with an Oracle and the Oracle said Germany so I'm sticking to Germany. Don't worry. This Oracle is not an octopus or elephant or any of the animals that seem to make the news daily during these weeks. It's a person and that person picked the winners of the last Cup without fail so I'm sticking with it. I even want to get a jersey but I'm afraid if I buy it and Germany wins it all that it will be obsolete. The current jersey has three stars above their seal as three time winners. If they win, it would have to have four.
World Cup fever is so high in the house, my daughters asked me if they could join a team! Something I will definitely comply with. Maybe it will get them active and into sports early. Not like their old man who waited until he was old.