Twain on the World Cup

by Nic Olson

The World Cup of Football is like the Olympics, but relevant. I could venture to say that every nation in the world has a soccer team, but not every nation in the world has a luge team (and if they do they don’t want to use Vancouver’s track, ask Georgia), not every nation in the world has a bobsleigh team (ask Jamaica), not every nation has a curling team, not every nation in the world has a Greco-Roman style wrestling team. But the World Cup, with football being the world’s most popular game, has relevance to the populace of the entire world.

I mean, chess, bridge, tug of war, bandy (apparently the fastest game on ice?), korfball, ballroom dancing, wushu, and lifesaving are all pertinent and make complete sense as potential Olympic sports, and the ever popular sports of current rotation in the Olympics such as pole vault and hammer throw, are obviously as popular worldwide as soccer, and it makes me understand why the Olympics are so important to the unity and commerciality of the world. But overwhelming sarcasm aside, the Olympics are nothing compared to what is easily the greatest sporting event that occurs every four years, the World Cup.

The idea of being devoted to a country just because you were fortunate/unfortunate enough to be birthed within its imaginary frontiers still confuses me. Being proud of culture, of natural beauty, of shared pastimes makes complete sense, but when these are lassoed together with the rope of institutionalism and turned into a certain patriotism, then that somewhat sensible pride loses all meaning. It discourages unity. Borders don’t make sense, and cheering for borders makes even less.

Patriotism contemplates the opposite of a common brotherhood.

-Mark Twain

But I know that in super events like these, the cheering isn’t for the borders, or the governments, or their policies. It isn’t for the twenty ‘leaders’ meeting in Toronto in a few days, it isn’t for the flags and their symbolic colours, it is for the beautiful game, the real Olympics, the brilliant strikes, and the magnificent saves. The cheering is for the time watching with friends, and the time where we can forget about the names of the nations we play under and the border tensions they create.

It is the beautiful game. The only borders we need worry about are the sidelines, the endlines and the 18 yard box.

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