The first FIFA World Cup game that I saw was back in 1986. Mexico hosted the tournament, so every game was broadcast on every television and described on every radio all around me. There was not a place that I would go where there wasn’t something soccer-related going on. I was only seven years old at the time — and I didn’t really understand what was going on — but I knew it was a big deal because everything would stop so that people could watch or listen to the games.
Not too long after that, my cousins introduced me to soccer, and the rest is history. I was hooked, and I watch any game that I can, be it a game on the street or the international championship. I love the athleticism that the players display. And, of course, I like to play it myself. It keeps me moving, and that’s always a good thing.
I’m sitting here watching the opening ceremony of the 2014 tournament in Brazil, and I am now 35 years old. I understand — or like to believe that I understand — the complicated nature of human existence and our very much more complicated relationships with each other. We are always either at war or at each others’ throats for things that don’t seem that important. So seeing the world come together for one of these tournaments is kind of a relief.
Except that the world isn’t really coming together.
Just outside the stadium for the opening ceremony, news outlets are reporting disturbances and protests by people who believe that the Brazilian government should have invested more money in social programs than on soccer stadiums that will only be used for four games. Many of the countries that are sending teams to the tournament are poor countries, or countries at war, or countries where soccer should not be a top priority if you look at things in an objective way. Yet here we are, celebrating the quadrennial tournament, feeling all tingly and stuff.
So what does someone who loves the sport do? Do we boycott the games and not watch, not buy anything from the tournament’s sponsors? Sure, we could do that. If enough people do that, the organizers will surely change things. But I have a feeling that not enough of us will do that, and that’s okay. Soccer games are meant to be entertainment, something to distract us from all those ugly things in the world. They last about two hours, so we then have the other 22 hours in the day to do good things.
Unfortunately, not everyone takes soccer so lightly.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.