Spoiler Alert: This is not a post on specifics of the World Cup 2022 being played in Qatar other than to observe that it is going on. Rather, it’s just an observation that with all the things that are going on on this planet, that more than 100 teams from all over the world can get together and kick a ball around.
I was never a team sports player. I was no athlete in school, and I never really got the mentality of being part of a team. The sports I participated in, when I did, were those where you were on your own, such as swimming or bowling. (Some don’t consider bowling a sport because you can eat a hot dog while you’re doing it.) Football required the strength and endurance that I did not have; baseball requires hand-eye coordination, which I also lack thanks to my inability to see 3-D. That also explains my poor tennis abilities. I played golf, but I learned that with practice, I got worse at it. But if I had been a team player, it would have been soccer, at my school at least. It required some endurance, but there was also a lot of standing around and watching the other players, and I could do that.
There’s another aspect of soccer that I like: you can do it anywhere. Football — the American kind — requires a marked-off field and a lot of room and expensive equipment. Baseball requires a field, too, and swimming… well, you get the idea. But with soccer, all you need is a ball, or something to kick. Yes, I know that there are touch football games kids play in their backyard, and stick-ball on the streets of Brooklyn is the stuff of Neil Simon plays, but I’ve seen kids kicking around a ball on the streets of tiny villages in the Caribbean, or photos of pick-up games in cities still smoldering from bombs during a war.
It’s not just the sport, though. It’s something that brings people from everywhere together, either to play or to watch: I remember during the last World Cup going to lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Miami and watching the Germans play a match on Spanish-language TV. We here in the US have the World Series and the Superbowl, but the number of other countries where baseball is a passion can be counted on one hand and no country other than Canada has anything close to American football. But soccer is universal, and it can be played by everyone regardless of age, income, or gender identity. And for the month or so that the World Cup is being played in the middle of a desert, and acknowledging that they’re not allowing neither beer nor queers, it’s far better than them shooting at each other. Those are the moments we have to take when we can get them.