Aside from the Philippine Independence Day Celebrations, last weekend was also the opening of the 2010 World Cup. Normally I wouldn’t be writing about this, I mentioned before that Filipinos are more basketball fans than we are of football. Unlike football, basketball is part of my culture, it is automatic in me; the rules, the names (both in NBA and our local PBA), the current standings. I even had a short stint as a sports writer for my university school paper which led me to meet JG. And since I met him (who is a huge basketball geek), I had more in-depth inputs. And like him, for years football was soccer to me.
Of course I am aware that most of the world are in to football, back home every four years, we get snipets in the sports features mostly a short report on the opening and weeks later who won. And that’s about it. Perhaps it is the years of being used to basketball, that I found the game too boring for me, I always complained of why it took so long for someone to score, and how they can let a game end without anyone winning. A relative abroad once sent a football for my brother, it wasn’t long for my older cousins to pick it up and use it as a basketball in their daily matches on the corner make shift court.
During the said sports writer stint, I was once tasked to cover a game; and since I did not know much about it, the plan was to go there, wait to see who scores, get some quotes, “this team beat that team…”; no flowery sports lingo’s, just straight up article. But it wasn’t as easy as that, the game ended with a draw with both teams not scoring any, leaving me with nothing much to write about. Since then I stuck with the ones I know.
But now that I am here in Libya it is not that easy to ignore it, especially when it’s everywhere (from TV ads to the small screen of my local store owner’s tube). It is especially special since this will be the first time the World Cup is held on the same continent. They also have a local league here, and a common sign that a favorite team has won, and how passionate Libyans are of the sport, is when a convoy of cars pass by adorned with flags and colors of the team, blare up their horns, sometimes with men sticking out their heads shouting for joy. Like an impromptu parade starring people who has forgotten how dangerous it is to not stay in your seat while in a car that is running on a busy road. Then again this is Libya…
So now, everybody is glued to the games. Funny thing is even JG is in on it. It surprises me that we now watch world sports on CNN and that he follows scores and updates online. Apparently he has been following it for years now. And it is starting to get to me too, I am starting to get a little grasp on the who’s who and I really love it when the players start to dance whenever they score, and seeing fans dance and sing on the streets. I am more interested on news bits about the passionate spectators and the social aspects affected by the game. The other day there was a feature on Brazilian team (who everybody knows about) taking on North Korea (who we know very little of); there was also this segment featuring the different songs/cheers each country has for their team.
Time Magazine has also released its World Cup Special, which schooled me a little on the players to watch out for, and I especially like one that writes about what the game (and hosting the Cup) means to South Africa. Newsweek went more on kill joy mode, (although it is an important, serious topic), discussing clearing out poor residences in South Africa to make way for beautifying the country for the games.
I like the idea that I am now more aware of what a big deal football is, it’s funny how I only realized now that football is a great sport for everyone considering it doesn’t matter if you guys are tall, and that it can be played almost anywhere. I have also found a renewed appreciation as to how hard it is to actually score a goal. News from home seems that there is more exposure and a bit more buzz on the sport, but it is much better to be here where you get much more feel of it. Had I been there I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what a Vuvuzela is, and how bad I feel for Mr. Eto’o now that Cameroon has been eliminated.
But I’m still no expert, which is why I haven’t made my mind up as to which team to root for as it would probably take some more time until the Philippines sends its team there. It would also probably take my whole six years away from home to install football in my head, compared to the basketball influence hardwired to my veins. But it definitely has my attention now.