Opinion Sports Columns

The Universal Language of Soccer

Gabby DeMarchi

Arts and Entertainment Editor

I love sports. I always have and I always will, but what makes me love sports so much more is the community it creates. No matter what your race, gender, sexual orientation or age, anyone can enjoy a sporting event.

For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers (best football team in all the land) don’t care if you are male or female, black or white, or young or old. They just want you to throw on your Troy Polamalu jersey, wave your Terrible Towel and scream your head off as you cheer the black and gold to victory.

In a sense, sports teams are blind to all of your physical features. All sports teams care about is how much passion, dedication and love you have for the game.

While I continue to circumnavigate the globe, I have found one sport that almost every country can identify with. Young, old, Xhosa speaking or Ga speaking, soccer has been idolized in almost every country I have been to so far.

The first country that I really noticed it in was Brazil. Now Brazil is known for being a huge soccer nation. It became obvious when every store I would walk into would be plastered with the Brazilian national football team’s jerseys. You couldn’t walk anywhere without seeing their iconic green and yellow colors proudly being represented.

The next country that it became apparent in was Ghana. Right before we arrived in Ghana, their national football team lost to Zambia in the Africa Cup of Nations. As I walked through one of the several markets in Accra, Ghana, I heard men bantering in broken English about Guyan, the man who missed the penalty shot in the final minutes of the semifinal game.

It was apparent that Ghana was clearly an upset nation after losing such an important game. It felt like Pittsburgh on a Monday morning after a tough loss to the Pats.

Next up was Cape Town. Ever since the Fifa World Cup hit South Africa in the summer of 2010 Cape Town lives and breathes soccer.

While I was in Cape Town, I actually got to go to a soccer match at the Cape Town Stadium, where games for the World Cup were played. While the stadium wasn’t packed, the fans that were there were more than passionate.

Seeing a live soccer game was extremely exciting. While I tend to find my eyes wandering, and constant visits to the fridge seem to happen while I try to watch a soccer game on the T.V. at home, it’s different for a live soccer game.

At a live soccer game there is constant movement and action. There is always something that catches your eye. While I wasn’t a fan of soccer before,I can now proudly say that the Cape Town Ajax have sparked my interest in a new sport!

Also, experiencing the vuvuzelas firsthand was an event all of its own. If you thought it was annoying on the T.V., it is just as annoying in real life, trust me.

Also while in Cape Town I got to play soccer with some local kids. While they only spoke Afrikaans, it was so amazing how we could communicate through soccer. For that hour of playing time, we spoke the same language.

While soccer wasn’t nearly as prominent in India, (the major sports of interest there were cricket and basketball) I still witnessed fields of kids playing pickup soccer on their breaks during school to burn off some steam.

We Americans grew up in a nation where soccer is under-appreciated. I think everyone joined the soccer bandwagon while our national team battled for the World Cup, but besides that, soccer doesn’t mean that much to us.

Witnessing the importance of soccer in each of the countries I have been in made me realize how universal of a sport it truly is. The game of soccer connects the people of Brazil, Ghana, South Africa and India, and they don’t even know it.

While all of these people speak different languages, have different skins tones, and have different beliefs, they all have soccer to bring them together.

While I always knew sports were universal, this trip has made it that much more clear to me. No matter where you are sports can be the common bond between any culture. As a sports journalist major it is such a joy to know that no matter where I go in life sports are loved everywhere.

Future sports editor for Cape Times newspaper in Cape Town? Sounds perfect to me!

Gabby DeMarchi may be reached at gdemarchi@springfieldcollege.edu 

Follow Gabby’s travels at ASemesterAtSea.Wordpress.com

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