In English they call it “The Beautiful Game,” in Portuguese “La Joga Bonito” and, for the rest of the world, it is simply known as “Football.” This week in Brazil, the quadrennial global madness known as The World Cup, begins again. It is a sporting event so large that it is estimated that half the world’s populations will watch it. Here is what you and your 21st century kid need to know about this truly worldwide event.
10 Seconds of History and Facts
The World Cup lasts for four weeks, is held every four years with 32 nations playing in 64 games.
The competition has been held 19 times but only Brazil, Italy, West Germany, Uruguay, Argentina, England, France and Spain have been victors. The United States has qualified 10 times, including this year, but has not progressed beyond the quarterfinals since 1930. In 1994, the US hosted the tournament.
More than 3.2 billion people watched some part of the 2010 World Cup on television (with over a billion viewing the final), and ESPN plans on airing 290 hours of programming around this year’s tournament. If it seems like The World Cup is always on, it is.
The tournament is organized into a group stage where four countries play each other and two teams from each group progress to the next (knockout) round. The US has three games in its group stage, vs. Ghana (6/16), vs. Portugal (6/22) and vs. Germany (6/26).
FIFA, the football governing body, has more member nations than the UN.
20 Seconds of Q&A
Who is favored to win?
Not us. Experts favor the home team Brazil and other highly rated countries include Argentina, Germany and Spain. Looking for a long-shot? Try Belgium.
Who are the stars of this tournament?
Soon you will hear names bandied about like Ronaldo (Portugal), Messi (Argentina) and Neymar (Brazil). These players have been hoisted onto the national stage because of their fabulous wealth (Ronaldo was said to earn $42 million last year), their prodigious talent on the field, and their fashion sense.
US players who will be in the limelight include striker Jozy Altidore, goalkeeper Tim Howard, midfielder Michael Bradley and striker/Captain Clint Dempsey.
Why does the press say that the US is in the “Group of Death”?
The US was placed in one of the most difficult of all the groupings. If we play well enough to progress beyond the group, to the next stage, expect utter pandemonium to ensue.
Why are soccer players always injured and lying on the ground?
Soccer has no replays and it all happens terribly fast. Players seem to believe that clutching an “injury” and rolling around on the floor will influence the referees. Minutes later they are up running around. You would punish your kid for this, but in professional soccer it is widely accepted.
How does fashion figure into The World Cup?
For years it didn’t. Then along came the photogenic David Beckham and his pop star/fashion designer wife Victoria, and soccer was never the same again. World famous soccer players now take part in advertising the world over. Ronaldo recently appeared sans clothing, discreetly covered by his girlfriend on the cover of Vogue. The relationship between the world of glamour and sport has become so cosy that The New York Times explained, “The fashion world treats the soccer field like a runway. “
Soccer fashion extends right down to the players’ feet. The once lowly black cleat has had a total makeover by Nike, Adidas and the like. Look for bright and bold footwear, enhanced by technology, to be the fashion side-show of the month-long tournament.
Why should I watch the World Cup with my kid?
The World Cup is a global moment. Like the Olympics, it grabs the world’s attention, unites us around a positive force and generally provides a great example to our kids, the global citizens of tomorrow.