Tom Sorensen

Why the World Cup is different from all the other events I’ve never watched before

I choose not to like soccer because – I really didn’t have a reason other than that I kept being told that the rest of the world liked it so I should, too.
I choose not to like soccer because – I really didn’t have a reason other than that I kept being told that the rest of the world liked it so I should, too. AP

It was a perfectly good Sunday and we could have done anything. We sat on the sofa and watched Columbia beat Poland 3-0. I need to relate soccer to what I know, so I saw (U.S.) football and basketball moves, immediate changes of direction and crossover dribbles with a soccer ball. The one constant: If there was a move that made us jump and shout, Columbia made it.

Is the World Cup like this every time it’s held? If so, why wasn’t I informed?

Oh, yeah. I didn’t like the sport. I will never appreciate soccer the way I appreciate my regulars, the NFL and NBA, college basketball and boxing, and after that baseball and college football. But I choose not to like soccer because – I really didn’t have a reason other than that I kept being told that the rest of the world liked it so I should, too.

Friends that knew nothing about soccer caught on more quickly, claiming Premier League teams and embracing those teams as if they grew up with them and not the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Falcons.

It’s cool when you expand and adapt. I have never been able to. If a sport wasn’t part of my past, it wasn’t part of my present. The World Cup is the outlier.

I know that some U.S. fans are turned off because the U.S. failed to qualify. But that confers the freedom to pull for anybody you want. If you live in Charlotte, it’s like the NBA playoffs.

I latched onto Uruguay before the tournament began because, in a random conversation that had nothing to do with soccer, a woman talked about how much she liked the country.

What’s not to like? Uruguay the country suggests possibilities. See, it can be done. The soccer is a bonus.

The World Cup has been a bonus. The Iran-Portugal and Spain-Morocco games Monday, which went on concurrently, were a thrill. So was Argentina’s 2-1 victory against Nigeria Tuesday.

And there was England and star Harry Kane destroying Panama 6-1.

What I like about the World Cup is that nobody tells you that you need to like it, or that you’re ignorant if you don’t. That’s really not a good strategy for selling the sport, or anything else.

Messi1
If a sport wasn’t part of my past, it wasn’t part of my present. World Cup soccer is the outlier. Above, Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Nigeria in St. Petersburg, Russia. Dmitri Lovetsky AP



Soccer no longer needs to be sold. Major League Soccer will come to town, and there’s an active and diligent Charlotte support group called The Queen’s Firm.

Fans know how good the World Cup is. If you get it, fine, and if you don’t, that’s fine, too.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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