I’ll admit, I’m honestly not that big of a soccer fan - or I wasn’t, anyway. I actually didn’t really consider that the World Cup would be in South Africa when I applied to DukeEngage Cape Town. However, now I’m not just a fan, I’m a fanatic. Call me a fair-weather fan or whatever you want, but I’ve researched player biographies, perused scoring statistics, pored over newspaper articles - you name it, I’ve probably studied its intricacies in the name of my new passion. And think what you will, but I’m intent on continuing this newfound interest past the World Cup; I intend to follow my favorite players from the big screens of the Cape Town Grand Parade Fanfest to the small screens of dorm common rooms.
That being said, I’m not ashamed to credit the World Cup for this new enthusiasm. While purists will assuredly make the claim that true fans watch soccer beyond just championship tournaments, I’m happy to have been shown the error of my ways in my opinion of soccer, even if it does involve jumping on the bandwagon. The World Cup is the largest sporting event on the planet, and I’m just happy to be included. For incoming fans, there’s a certain image that comes with joining a sport at this stage. The hardened veterans who live and die with their team look down upon newcomers, because there’s a certain level of commitment that comes with being a fan, one that supersedes titles and trophies. But in Cape Town, with teams falling out of contention every other day, it’s only natural to pick a favorite from those left and cheer your heart out anyway.
I’m trying to justify a “better late than never” argument here. Perhaps it’s because I was afforded the opportunity to see the impact and presence soccer can have in a nation that I am now able to appreciate the passion fans invest in it. And if the World Cup manages to create a few more year-round soccer fans in this process it will have accomplished its mission, won’t it? FIFA is more than just a sporting association - it’s a company that prides itself on promoting its product, the sport of soccer and all its trimmings, to fans around the world - this tournament brings great sport and an increased market all in one fell swoop. And as much as the World Cup is a competition, it’s also a showcase. For players, the games act as a platform from which to market themselves and show off for possible new contracts. Just look at Landon Donovan - the United States midfielder parlayed his starring role on the United States team into a multimillion-dollar deal with Manchester United. As the players exhibit their best soccer skills to win new contracts, they win new fans too - myself included. In my (extremely) humble opinion, many Americans have severely misjudged this sport. Almost every other country in the world has already caught on - so jump on the bandwagon, prep your pride for the newcomer jokes, and start watching the other football.