It's well-known that soccer, like religion, can provoke violence like hooliganism and tramplings at overcrowded, large stadiums, and this is what many Americans assume it is all about. "But soccer has also proved unique in its ability to bridge differences and overturn national prejudices. The fact that the World Cup could even take place in South Korea and in Japan, as it did in 2002, was a victory for tolerance and understanding. In less than half a century South Korea had gone from not allowing the Japanese national team to cross its borders for a World Cup qualifier, to co-hosting the tournament with the former occupier" (Soccer, 2009).
Soccer's universality lies in its simplicity. It lies in the fact that the game can be played anywhere with anything. Children from anywhere can kick the can on concrete or kick a rag wrapped around a rag, barefoot, on the dirt. Soccer is something to believe in now, maybe empty at its core, but not a replacement for anything else (Soccer, 2009).
The beautiful game can be at its most unfair, frustrating, and magnificent all at the same time. And what makes the World Cup most beautiful is the world, all of it together. The joy of being one of the billion or more people watching 32 countries abide by 17 rules fills people with the conviction, perhaps ignorant, that soccer can unite us all (Soccer, 2009). Humans have always played some version of a kicking game. What the world now calls association football, or soccer, evolved in medieval Britain and was formalized by England's Foofball Association in mid-19th century. British sailors and merchants spread the game to the far corners of the world, where soccer's simple formula, imagination and a ball, found instant translation. "Today soccer is played in every nation on earth, by more than 120 million regular players and countless others on beaches, playgrounds and streets" (Soccer Unites the World… (FIFA) Federation Internationale de Football Association, 2006).
Soccer is seen as a sport for everyone. Soccer in the U.S. is both male and female sport, since a 1970s boom in youth soccer taught girls to play and equal opportunity laws opened new horizons for them at the college level. In 1991 the U.S., won the first Women's World Cup, and repeated in 1999. With a strong showing in World Cup 2002, the U.S. men are also on the rise, although on any given day regional rivals Mexico and Canada or smaller nations such as Guatemala or Costa Rica can humble their giant neighbor. Soccer is the great equalizer (Soccer Unites the World… (FIFA) Federation Internationale de Football Association, 2006).
In South America there are 15,236,800 total players. Overcoming chronic poverty and poor infrastructure, South America consistently produces some of the most exciting soccer on Earth. Brazil and Argentina are proving grounds for young players, whose flamboyance and skill are admired by the rest of the world. Many players are snapped up by wealthy European teams after making their mark at home, where clubs rarely have the money to keep them (Soccer Unites the World…(FIFA) Federation Internationale de Football Association, 2006).
In Europe there are 35,783,000 players. This is the birthplace of the modern game, England helped popularize soccer worldwide. In 1966, on its home soil, it won its single World Cup. Roday most global soccer revenue comes from Europe, home to the world's richest professional clubs. Hosted by Germany, the 2006 World Cup will bring together the best national teams in the world, who survived a rigorous, two-year competition to qualify (Soccer Unites the World… (FIFA) Federation Internationale de Football Association, 2006).
In Africa the total number of players is 6,984,500. Africa already produces its share of superstars, but it lacks strong domestic leagues and loses many of those stars to European clubs. Like South America, Africa is poor in resources but rich in talent, with thousands of gifted young players dreaming of the big time. Teams such as Nigeria and Ghana light up the world stage and could have a home continent advantage in 2010, when South Africa hosts Africa's first World Cup (Soccer Unites the World…(FIFA) Federation Internationale de Football Association, 2006).
Asia has 34,708,100 players. Over the past two decades, a heated soccer rivalry, among Japan, China and South Korea, has stirred soccer passions across the continent. Not all countries share the fervor, however; India and Pakistan prefer other sports, especially cricket. Meanwhile, oil-rich Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are investing huge sums of money in their programs, hiring the best coaches and player's money can buy (Soccer Unites the World…(FIFA) Federation Internationale de Football Association, 2006).
In Australia and Oceania there are 628,300 players. Long dominated by cricket, rugby and Australian Rules football, Australia had lately made room for soccer, fortifying its national team with immigrants from the Balkans and other soccer-mad regions. The 2006 World Cup will be Australia's first appearance in 32 years, after beating Uruguay in a dramatic playoff series to qualify. New Zealand, which hosted the Under 17 World Championship in 1999, also has a competitive national team (Soccer Unites the World… (FIFA) Federation Internationale de Football Association, 2006).
In Honduras, Guevara, the soccer team's captain, fulfilled a boyhood dream in October when his country clinched a berth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in dramatic fashion. Entering the last round of the CONCACAF qualifiers, Honduras, nicknamed Los Catrachos, needed to win in El Salvador and hope the United States, which had already qualified, would not lose to Costa Rica. Guevara and his cohorts did their part by winning 1-0, but Costa Rica jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, a result that, if it had stood, would have sent Costa Rica to the World Cup, and Honduras into a two-game playoff series against mighty Uruguay, with a World Cup berth at stake (Molinaro, 2009).
The Americans came back, though, and earned a 2-2 draw thanks to an equalizer during injury time. This allowed Honduras to book their flight to South Africa and set off wild celebrations in the streets. And while World Cup qualification was special enough for Guevara, the magnitude of Honduras's achievement was even more meaningful in light of the current situation in the politically embattled Central American country. Ever since a military coup led to the ouster of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras has been plunged into a state of bedlam and turmoil (Molinaro, 2009).
Guevara believes Honduras's World Cup qualification can bring unity and stability to his homeland at a time when the country is steeped in political chaos and uncertainty. He hopes the politicians take a lesson from what's going on with the team that Honduras is a country that can stay unified, regardless of any political problems going on. With the World Cup qualification, the people of the country have gotten together, have put their faith in God ahead of everything else and have been working on the objective of unity. It is hoped that the politicians can take a lesson from that. In order to understand what qualifying for the World Cup means to the Honduran people, one only needs to look at the reception the team was given on its return home. Guevara and his teammates had modest celebration plans, but they ended up having an audience with interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti (Molinaro, 2009).
In expressions of nation building, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is the ultimate unifying event. South Africa has never before had such an opportunity to stand together as a nation and welcome the world. The 2010 FIFA World Cup gives them the chance to shine on the global stage and every South African citizen is taking this opportunity to heart. "Team South Africa consists of every South African who wants to see the event as a huge success, and it's not only about the exhilarating weeks leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The journey began soon after the announcement in May 2004 that South Africa would host the tournament" (A unifying even, 2010).
They have been building stadiums, transport systems, hotels, roads and the spirit of their nation, and as a result a restored sense of solidarity and togetherness has emerged from their joint efforts. Enthusiasm for the 2010 FIFA World Cup has not been limited to those directly involved in the project, but has spilled over onto the streets and into the townships and rural areas, and the message is clear that one doesn't have to be a soccer fan to understand the value of this major sporting event (A unifying even, 2010).
In South Africa, they are not strangers to the power of sport to cement a nation together. In the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela wowed the world as the country's Number one sports fan. The opportunity of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is calling and every South African…