The Greatest Show On Earth…

No, I am not referring to the circus. I am talking about the beautiful game: Soccer*, Calcio, Futbol, Football, Fussball however you want to call it.

Soccer is the first true form of global social media. It is hands down the most watched and played sport in the world and certainly amongst the most watched – anything – in the world. It unites and divides people, makes them laugh and cry, rejoice and despair all in a span of 90 minutes.

Just to put it into perspective, the 2006 FIFA World Cup averaged 95 million viewers per match (64 matches total) with the final attracting 260 million viewers (according to an independent study on 90% of worldwide viewership by Initiative Sports Futures). No other sport or sporting event comes close.

No matter where you are in the world (with unfortunately the glaring exception of the U.S.) you can strike up a passionate conversation about soccer, you can kick anything that rolls for a quick pickup game with perfect strangers and you are guaranteed instant camaraderie with bitter enemies.

Piola, Pele, Zico, Cruyff, Best, Beckenbauer, Platini, Gentile, van Basten, Maradona, Klinsman, Zidane, Ronaldo, Baggio, Maldini, Totti, Del Piero, Rooney, Messi, Kaka, Eto’o, C. Ronaldo, Torres and the list continues and expands with legends and current stars from all over the world.

I am passionate about soccer like no other sport (and I do love my sports). But if you told me I could only get one channel on TV, I would not hesitate – give me soccer 24/7. While I lived and worked in Rome in the late 90s and early 00s I was a season ticket holder of the Stadio Olimpico’s Curva Sud (the most passionate section of the stadium) home to my “giallorossi” – AS Roma. I rolled around on the pitch weeping for joy after the final game of the 2000-2001 season when we won the Serie A title after 25 years of abstinence. As for the upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa, I will be following my beloved “Azzurri” who are set to defend their title against the best teams in the world. If you ask my wife what it was like at home as I watched the 2006 World Cup semi-final against Germany she will tell you that I was sweating more than the players and let out one of the most liberating screams ever heard when Fabio Grosso curled the ball into the German net with a few minutes left in overtime. I still get goose bumps every time I see the sequence replayed.


So you can imagine my joy in seeing my son kick around a soccer ball and chase after it. I cannot wait for him to start enjoying watching soccer with me and kicking the ball around in the park. It may be cliché, but if the love of soccer is one more way in which my son and I will add to strength to our bond it would please me immensely. This is one of my passions and I am sure that for others it is something else that stirs up such emotions.

I look forward to the World Cup because it will be my son’s first and even if he does not fully appreciate, I will make sure to plant the seed of passion (I can just see my wife rolling her eyes).

*Ironically this name is an abbreviation of Association Football used at elite universities in England in the late 1800’s

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10 thoughts on “The Greatest Show On Earth…

  1. Tessasdad says:

    Great post!

    When I was Uganda for a month, it was easy to connect with anyone because all I had to do was talk about football. I would ask a kid or adult who their favorite Premiership team was and that would start a conversation and a friendship so easily.

    I'm hoping Tessa will fall in love with game as I have as well.
    .-= Tessasdad´s last blog ..Cool news today =-.

  2. Soccer mom says:

    Be careful what you wish for. Seriously. My son has been playing since

    he was 4. Always a grade level up and multi teams at a time, and

    always competitive teams. Let me just say we have not had a true

    family vacation in 8 years. We did all of this cause my son loves soccer and

    he is very good at it. He is a freshman in h s now and is some what

    burnt out. It is very sad. I'm sure your aware of all that is involved

    when you allow it to get out of hand. Best of luck to you.

    • New York Dad says:

      I understand completely. What I wish for (and I'm glad you bring it up so I can clarify) is that my son becomes passionate about the game and not necessarily about playing it. If he wants to play and plays competitively or not will be up to him. I have always played (competitively only through High School) and in whatever shape or form (full, 8-a-side, 5-a-side, beach, pick-up) until I blew out both my knees. But for me it's a drug that goes beyond needing to participate physically in the game. It's a mental addiction (again I see my wife rolling her eyes). I enter a trance-like state when I watch Roma or Italy play (and close to one when I watch other games in which my loyalty lies neither here nor there). The outside world vanishes. I just need to be near soccer. Breathe it. I'm so crazy about it that I see flowers blooming in Spring and think those are such-and-such a team's colors!

      I am sorry to hear you have not had a family vacation because of his soccer and more so that your son is burnt out. I hope it is only with regard to playing the game competitively and not about the sport itself. It is a fundamental difference and one that I hope he appreciates. I enjoyed playing through High School (luckily it did not preclude family vacations) and decided not to pursue it further in college because that part of my passion for the sport had run its course (although I never said no to pickup games and beach play) and I had many other things that I wanted to do in college. No regrets, though, because the love of the game is what really counts. Playing it actively certainly makes you appreciate soccer more, but should not preclude your love of it once you stop no matter how dedicated you were to playing it. That would be a shame and I hope that is not the case for your son. A trip to South Africa this summer would allow you both the pleasure of a family vacation (finally) and the joy of participating in the holiest of all soccer events 😉

      • twistedxtian says:

        *gasp*

        The first time I watched an International Football match was the Euro 96 where Oliver Bierhoff scored the winning goal to take it all. And now with Michael Ballack at the helm, they continue to be amazing. 🙂 That and my German heritage (way back) make it a natural connection.

        I've been a fan ever since. 🙂
        .-= twistedxtian´s last blog ..Broken Connection =-.

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