The World Cup Is About More Than Just the Game

Students gather in the Forum to watch the World Cup. Photo by Olivia Brown.

As a person who has lived around the world, I have had experiences with many different people, cultures and societies. With these opportunities, I have experienced the benefits of knowing a diverse range of people with backgrounds from around the world. Such different perspectives can sadly lead to discord and conflict—but having the opportunity to experience so many different cultures enables me to have a unique vantage point that allows me to not only see what divides us, but also what brings us together.

I am able to understand that it’s not a certain idea, sentiment or belief that unites the world. Instead, it’s something overlooked, something someone could be doing right now in their own backyard, that unites us in a way that is hard to describe: the beautiful game—soccer (or football—I guess the world can’t agree on everything). 

Soccer is spectacular. It is unbiased, non-political and universal. Soccer is the great equalizer; it unites people around the globe. Young or old, rich or poor—everyday people come together to play, watch and celebrate soccer. It brings the best out in us: teamwork, sportsmanship, patriotism and determination. The sport also provides us with lifelong lessons including resilience, friendship and grit. Soccer means so much to so many; it makes us happy and it makes us sad. Soccer unites all of us.  

There is no better way to represent the globe’s love for soccer than the FIFA World Cup—the iconic culmination of soccer games around the world. Nations from around the world come together in one country to celebrate and compete in soccer games. A game that, to many, is a frivolous pastime is simultaneously meaningful and serious. The World Cup is able to concentrate so many different cultures and backgrounds into one stadium. 

What particularly excites me about the World Cup is the fans from countries around the world who travel to support their nation. If there is one thing I have learned from my experiences around the world, it is how passionate people are about who they are and where they’re from. It doesn’t matter if it’s the places I am from, the United States and Germany; or the countries l have lived in, such as the Netherlands; or places I have visited, like Spain, Morocco or Japan. Everyone around the world shows up for their country. The game itself is not what primarily makes the sport special; it is the people. 

Even I, who didn’t travel to see this year’s World Cup, was still able to enjoy the games from the Forum with my friends during lunch and our free periods. Not only does the game break down cultural barriers in the world, but it also unites me with both friends who are avid soccer players and those who usually don’t watch soccer. There is no better way to spend my free time than watching a game I love with my classmates rather than being on our phones, disconnected from each other and the world.

Soccer has become a part of my identity through growing up playing the sport and watching the World Cup. Although I may not be the best, fastest or most technical, I love the sport. On the field, it allows me to take a break from what’s going on around me. Recently, when feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork, I went outside to play soccer as both a distraction from the work I had and a mechanism to reduce my stress. Soccer has given me the space to get away from my cluttering thoughts and, because of this, it has become my place of refuge, both mentally and physically. When playing, soccer makes me feel better as I am able to exercise, get stronger and have fun with my friends all at once. I see the benefits of soccer off the field as well; I’m able to watch soccer, discuss it with my family and friends and support my countries and teams. The sport acts as a conversation-starter and a way to gauge multiple people’s perspectives. The special connection with the sport formed through these interactions is felt by so many around the world and is what I believe makes soccer so popular. 

Although both the countries I was rooting for, Germany and the United States, have been eliminated, I still sit down to watch the World Cup with friends and family. To me and many others, the game is about so much more than just winning. Sure, it would be very exciting to see my countries succeed, but what is more valuable is the connection I feel through both watching and playing soccer.