Why the FIFA World Cup is the Most Watched Sporting Event of all time
“For us, fútbol really is a religion.”
You’ll hear this phrase all over the world. Fútbol (I refuse to call it “soccer”) is the most famous and most watched sport of all time. People worship the likes of Thomas Muller, Neymar, and Christiano Ronaldo (truly there are chapels established for the purpose).And Mexican commentators cannot help but scream “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL” at the top of their lungs, sometimes for a whole sixty seconds.
Futbol: the only religion that doesn’t have any atheists
But what makes this event so great, even if you aren’t a huge futbol fan (America: I’m talking about you).
Because of all the countries that practice fútbol as a religion, there is truly excitement like no other when it comes to the sport. Everyone knows about it. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone wants to participate in the hype. And unlike the Olympics, everyone can relate to fútbol since the players only play one sport.
Indeed, even if you don’t attend a live match (something at the top of my bucket list), you can easily sense the immense aliveness of the stadium. Everyone–even the 4-year-old child–has emotion. People are laughing. Crying. Hugging. Watching intensely. You have it all. When you see all that emotion and nationalism, the crowd instantly pulls you in. You–even as a spectator in your house thousands of miles away from the action–cannot help but feel bitter or sorrow or pride.
Knowledge about the world:
One of my friends asked me how 32 different teams–most with their own languages–communicate with the ref? And if you think about it, It’s a pretty profound thought…. That’s what is amazing. Countries all over the world come together and play one sport that everyone can universally communicate about–though excitement, tone, and hand-gestures. It’s crazy.
But for me, the most greatest part about international events like FIFA is the loads of knowledge I gain about the world. You really do learn everything about a team’s culture–from food traditions to daily temperature to playing style–by watching games like these. And while you may not be able to travel to Nigeria or Japan, watching and learning all about the culture is immensely interesting.
There are some intense stakes at hand here. Brazil–even with thousands of people starving and a plethora of revolts occurring nationally–is spending over ten billion (yes with a “b”) dollars on the cup. The trophy costs as much as the Mona Lisa. Winning means you are the most famous person on the universe (i.e. Müller, Klose). Losing means your job and your reputation (think Fred or Scolari).
But moreover, the World Cup soon evolves into a melting pot of nationalism. Everyone wants their respective country to win. Some are even willing to buy $7,000 tickets to see live action. There is rivalry (think Brazil vs. Argentina). There is a desire for vengeance (Netherlands vs. Spain). And there is an ego to maintain or an impression to cast.
Truly, nobody’s asking you to like futbol or the World Cup. But even if you know nothing of futbol, you cannot deny, it is a spectacular show. Enjoy it while it lasts.