Opening my eyes (and ears) to soccer
The Hamilton Spectator
June 29, 2010
I don’t really consider myself a big stick-and-ball sports guy, although in high school I played most of them: football, rugby, basket ball, volley ball and hockey. However most, who watched, thought the latter was more of a comedy routine.
Like a lot of teen boys in high school, I played sports for the girls. I still have my leather high school foot ball jacket from 1977.
The sport that I have loved since I was a couple of years old is NASCAR. It’s more than a game you know? But that is another column.
So you can imagine how surprised even I was when on the opening weekend of the 2010 World Cup, I found myself in front of the screen watching soccer?
The beautiful game, which I always found boring, simply because I couldn’t understand what was so exciting about watching 90 minutes only to end in a 0-0 tie?
Why not turn on golf and fall asleep on the couch? At least the announcers whisper and there are no horns!
What got me interested? As in high school, it was a girl. Except this time it was my seven-year-old daughter.
She plays the game but the big catalyst was her school. Her Grade 2 class used the World Cup as a geography lesson, teaching the kids where all the teams were from right down to their countries’ flags.
(Wait? Maybe there were two girls?
Watching Shakira jump around at the opening concert didn’t hurt either!)
From then on, I was in. It was the first time I have really sat down and watched a game from beginning to end.
Now don’t let me mislead you. It’s not like I’m hovering over every game and it certainly hasn’t captured my attention like the Vancouver Olympics. But it has not only opened my eyes to another sport but also captivated me – and the world - with its images of South Africa showing off its pride and culture.
Here are some points that stand out for me - other than the games themselves which have seen their share of upsets and story lines.
First the vuvusela! Some commentators say they are new, however I remember winning one at the C.N.E. when I was a kid more than 40 years ago!
But they may be new to soccer and some are not too happy. France blamed their poor showing on the mock-traditional horn, and some even tried to have them banned from future play.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter defended South African fans’ use of the vuvuzelas, saying: “Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?”
Touché Sepp! Is the hum of freedom any more annoying then the drunken British fight songs normally heard at soccer games?
Keep your eyes and ears peeled for them at future games in all sports. I hope Gary Bettman doesn’t like them. Although most would say the vuvuzela is less annoying than him.
South Africa built five new stadiums for this World Cup. We’re having a difficult time getting one built. They also refurbished another five. I wonder if they are willing to help us just find a suitable location for ours?
There are 32 teams; Canada is not one of them.
There are 736 players, more than half of whom play in five European domestic leagues in England, Germany, Italy, Spain and France.
The winning team gets $30 million U.S.; the runner up $24 million. Each team gets $1 million for making the tournament for preparation costs.
New this year, some games are available in 3D for the fan who has everything.
In sharp contrast, 42 million condoms were distributed as more than half of the sex trade workers in South Africa have AIDS.
And finally, let’s not forget the lively, controversial game ball blamed for all that the vuvuzela can’t be. The ball is from Germany’s Adidas but made in China.
Although team Canada didn’t make the cut, there is a little bit of Canadiana and Hamilton at the 2010 World Cup.
The whistles the FIFA referees are blowing are Fox 40’s: Canadian-made by Hamilton business man Ron Foxcroft. And louder than a vuvuzela!
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays from 4-6pm on News/Talk 900 CHML.
Visit his website at www.ScottThompsonTalk.com