One World, One Cup

One World, One Cup

I was stuck in a loop today after the game.

“Hope is not lost.” That’s what she said. The Japanese checkout girl at Fiesta meant it too—Japan is still in the cup, and tomorrow Mexico (my first and only remaining hope, now that the US has been eliminated by Ghana) will face Argentina, a team and country I sort of hate (in soccer terms only, although I’m not exactly cheering for them either). I’m not sure what our hopes are. No one at a barbeque I attended this afternoon thought El Tri had a shot. And I argued for them as best I could, pointing out the talent and passion those men have (all undermined by some terrible decisions from the sidelines). But along with the rationale of numbers there was something a little darker, what my friend Rich would call post-colonial futbol.

Argentina is historically a powerhouse. Brazil, of course, dominates. Other teams like France, Italy, England Germany, the Netherlands, and a few others I’m forgetting. And then there are the Asian teams, who no one really has much to say about. The African teams that get grouped in a way I find problematic. And the Americas, with the weak Hondurans and flakey, 17th-ranked Mexico. And of course they can’t do well, because how can 17 defeat 7.

Italy (5) and France (9) go home in shame. A shame shame to lose in such a shameful way. But when Switzerland (24) scores on a sweet cross, or New Zealand (78) puts a ball in the net for their first World Cup goal, well, we have an upset. And a story!

The World Cup this year has been full of stories. Olympic-style stories. “Voices of South Africa” stories that remind me of “Bart’s People” in a way that doesn’t reflect well on me. I guess I’m saying that the Mundial’s been rebranded for the American audience. I’ve never seen Univision or Telemundo do the deep Lifetime-esque cheese fest before a game. Perhaps I’m spoiled. Perhaps audiences here require more story. Perhaps I’m the cold one.

My mother says that most North Americans will stop watching now that the team is out. My father says I’m a terrible human being for suggesting that we lost that game, Ghana beat us, but we also lost that game. He asked me what I thought good soccer was and I responded “pass completion.” He argued that Ghana was simply better. I didn’t disagree. I just said we weren’t playing with our hearts. Because I’d seen South Korea lose, exposing their now depleted cavities when exchanging jerseys with their victors. Because I’d seen what it was like to play your heart out. To want something that bad. And I didn’t see the team do that. I hate to say it.

Mostly because I’m hoping that tomorrow Mexico will bring their backup hearts and extra-enlarged supercharged magnum hearts of steel. And that they work the beats down to grinds. This is probably because I think Maradona is a dufus. “The head of Maradona and the hand of God.”

So post-colonial futbol. The people at the bar, a couple of them said “but how could we lose to Ghana?” As if “Ghana” meant “those losers.” Ah, Africa. Maybe the vuvuzelas are to drown out the “Voices of South Africa” as produced by ESPN, maybe the trumpets exist to block out the exploitation they need to survive. Capitalism’s a bitch.

I know I’m not explaining myself well. Part of it is that I’m in a stream-of-conscious kind of mood. But part of it is that when I was filling out my scoresheet for my family bracket, I paused before filling in the numbers. Would the Netherlands been Slovakia 3-1 or 3-0? Is underestimating your opponent (not even bothering to check where they play or what talent they have) post-colonialism, racism, or just the way the world works? 17 beats 7. I said Mexico 3, Argentina 2. I know it’s a dumb bet. Even my boyfriend said Argentina 2, Mexico 1. He’ll probably get the points.

But if I win, it’ll be a whole lot sweeter. Imagine Japan (45) beating Paraguay (31). Then again, I put my money on the South Americans. As anyone who’s ever played Risk with me knows, I have a thing for South America.

“They’re so tall, so muscular.” “They play with that jungle rhythm.” “That samba step.” “That cheetah speed.” “Tsha-bala-la” sung, sung loud. Is this okay? Because sometimes all I hear is “exotic, brown, black.” But there really is a samba step. I’ve even seen Kobe Bryant do it.

I’ve been told that you can find the evil if you read into anything too much. And it’s true. I wonder if graduate school ruined me. Or maybe the world ruined itself.

I like a world ruled by Brazil more than I like a world ruled by Portugal. That Cristiano Ronaldo is insufferable. And I suspect he’s folliclally flammable. I’d also like a world where Chiquidrácula gives out less yellow and red cards.


Then again, the refereeing has been rough on everyone. The US got two goals taken away. Red cards were given for safe defensive plays. No explanations were given. Italians seemed to be preparing for some kind of diving event. A rough tournament. But then again, the announcers kept saying that flopping and diving should be banned. Red cards for all. More Americans will watch if the game is cleaner. As if an Italian soccer player would think to himself, “Oh, I won’t take a dive. It might offend the sensibilities of a viewer in Palo Alto.” I agree that flopping is terrible and should be punished. I just don’t think it should be punished to make more Americans happy.

See. I’m back at colonialism again. Maybe it’s my Mexico nerves kicking in. I am nervous. Those Argentines are… well, from Argentina. And therefore, pretty darn good. But, we do have two secret weapons. The hope of a Japenese checkout girl who assured me my country and hers would rise to the occasion. The other? That somewhere in the audience, tucked in a shadow, Chiquidrácula will be rooting for El Tri, handing out imaginary cards to all those Gauchos.

(“Gauchos”? Was that derogatory or a fun sports jibe? You see, I’m stuck in a loop.)