Soccer….Family Style

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
December 3, 2010, 4:35 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer

You probably think this is going to be a rant about bribes in FIFA. Wrong. Made you look. Sucker!

This is about 22 year old Tanya. It’s about a girl who was driving home from the 1994 World Cup in Chicago, talking non-stop to her boyfriend about the amazing experience they’d just had and the pact they made. It was a pact to go to every World Cup, no matter where it was. We would let soccer show us the world. Places we’d never thinking of going to for fun, but places that would teach us about who we are.

In 1994, I was just starting to grasp what moving to Iowa from northern New Jersey had done for me. When you live somewhere totally different from your home environment, it changes the way you see yourself and the world around you. You realize what you took for granted as “what everyone does” and you learn about the things that really do connect us as people. That goes for travel too.

It was terrifying to go to Korea in 2002. I was four and a half months pregnant with my first child and had a head full of what ifs. What if we need medical attention and can’t communicate what we need? What if there’s a crush at the stadium? What if I eat something I’m not supposed to because I not only don’t speak the language, I can’t even sound out the characters? It was really scary.

South Africa had other worries. Would they be ready in time? How bad is the security? Will we be safe? On the streets? In the stadiums? Should we bring our kids and worry about them in questionably secure areas, or leave them in the states and worry that we will never see them again?

I’m not going to say that I’m not nervous, or even dreading going to Qatar. But I am going to say that there’s been several universal themes through all 5 cups I’ve witnessed.

  • No host wants fans to have a bad experience.
  • FIFA won’t let the tournament go on if there are serious security concerns.
  • People are more the same around the world than they are different.
  • For the most part, the differences are beautiful.
  • The good will outweigh the bad.

So we’ll see. I’ve watched the Qatar presentation to FIFA. They make some provocative promises. Soccer stadiums getting built modularly and then torn down post tournament, so they can be packed and shipped to a developing nation is pretty cool. The industrial designer in me really wants to see that. Stadiums going out into the world is a good thing, if they can pull it off.

This is it. Qatar is what I wanted. I wanted to see parts of the world that I would never consider going to without a World Cup there. So I’ll give Qatar a chance. I’ll step out of my comfort zone and go to the Middle East and watch some soccer in 2022. 22 year old Tanya would be appalled if I didn’t.

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