World Cup 2010

Today, I am a citizen of the world.  For one month, June 11-July 11, the entire globe will be focused on 64 games played by 32 countries spanning every continent.  Over a billion people will  follow these games.  Entire countries will come to a standstill for the knockout rounds leading to the all-important quarterfinals, semis and the Final on July 11.  For those in the U.S. who are less used to national teams and more involved with college and professional teams, this year may mark the change.  For one thing, the U.S. has a pretty good team, currently ranked 14 in the world.  For another, this is a story with poignancy and profound human interest.  To put it into perspective, if the Superbowl attracts 100 million viewers, the World Cup attracts over a billion! Get used to a whole new lingo for the next month - fixture congestion, red cards and slide tackles.  Get used to FIFA and Groups.  Watch winning strategies that require a chess player's intelligence and focus.  Watch how the premier teams do the least required to get through to the qualifying rounds while others must give it everything they have game by game and can barely afford to strategize ahead (The U.S. is in the latter group!).  It is a tournament being played in South Africa and a game that is about as democratic as one can get.   It needs little equipment, has no height or weight barriers, barely even requires a pitch.  It is all skill.  On the continent of Africa, soccer has served as education, motivation, national pride and achievement.  Stories abound.  Players with championship talent learned on uneven ground with round objects that could hardly even qualify as balls.  Names such as Drogba (Ivory Coast), Eto'o (Cameroon) are now part of the football lexicon.  About 3 weeks ago, I got an e-mail from my nephew in Australia that said, "That time again".  And off we went establishing our own Soccer pool.  Each of us got 4 picks with points associated to each selection.  One change would be allowed after Round 1 but with a 4 point deduction.  With 11 members participating, there were suggestions, comments, opinions, challenges, refutations, revisions, rule changes, demands for explanations, clarifications and, finally, a list that closed 12 midnight Australia time on June 10.  I started with a gross disadvantage since I scarcely keep up with sports news.  But I learned fast.  In order to compete among these stalwart competitors already in a fine state of frenzy, I had to exhibit some level of competence, however recently the knowledge had been gained.  So here are my selections - Spain, Brazil, Argentina and USA.  A little bit safe, a little bit risky.  And for all those on the sidelines, perhaps you will catch some of the fever too.  Our Tea Room will celebrate tomorrow with two appropriate teas on Special all day long - Nelson's Gold and Rooibos Crush on You.  Bring on the vuvuzelas.  Bring on the noise.   G-o-o-o-o-a-l!
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