I am a soccer fan. I am also a longtime coach and player. But when I was a kid, admitting that was like telling people you came from Saturn and spoke Klingon. You might as well have just said, "hi, I'm a weirdo. Wanna beat me up?"
The fact is, watching the World Cups in 1974 and ‘78, and even ‘82, was a truly exotic experience. It meant watching snowy images from the local UHF Spanish-language station (channel 41 here in NY). It was the only time in my life I ever touched the round UHF antenna on the family set. Between the unfamiliar language and the spotty reception, it was like watching a transmission from another world - which, in a sense, it was.
Soccer is a truly global game. Even before I became a fan of what would come to be called World Music, soccer made me aware that places like Brazil and Argentina even existed. Along with music, soccer is something that brings together people who might otherwise distrust each other. It’s no accident that Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian author Edward Said used both music and soccer when creating opportunities for young people from throughout the Middle East to work and play together. And it’s no surprise that a nation like Ivory Coast, torn by civil war into northern and southern factions, comes together this week to watch their predatory forward Didier Drogba – genuinely beloved by both northern and southern Ivorians - and the rest of the national team go for World Cup glory.
As Barenboim once told us on Soundcheck some years ago, politics can be divisive. But give a bunch of kids the chance to play music together, or play ball together, and those kinds of differences seem to disappear. At least for as long as the songs or the game lasts. Give the people in these trouble spots more music and more soccer, and maybe we’d have a bit less trouble.
This World Cup is full of official songs, team anthems, etc. What’s your favorite sound of the World Cup? Leave a comment.