Let’s celebrate with the world on a sport Americans didn’t invent

Following one of the greatest World Cup finals of all time and Lionel Messi’s coronation as an all-time sporting great, it’s important to recognize the effect that the World Cup has had on us as Americans. I am a junior in high school and it seems my entire school has made soccer America’s new pastime.  Lionel Messi is no longer a foreign star, but an idol alongside Lebron James and Tom Brady. In these past few weeks, we’ve seemingly found common ground with the world under the uniting force of soccer. As a country that is obsessively – almost exclusively – focused on its own sports, this World Cup has given Americans a unique opportunity to reconnect with the global community. 

Since I could walk, I was convinced that football, baseball, and basketball were the most important sports in the world. We are in love with our “American” sports. There is nothing that inspires more passion in my friends than their fantasy football leagues and NBA standings. We often incorrectly assume that the rest of the world shares the same zeal. Globally however, soccer is the game that dominates. And it’s “football”, not “soccer”. After all, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is called FIFA, not FISA.

While we think we’re the center of the world, other countries think it’s absolutely hilarious that our “World Series” is confined to clubs in the US and Canada. They also think it’s ironic that in the sport we call “football”, most of the team never actually strike the ball with their foot

It’s not the obsession with our own sports that is the problem. It’s the way we choose to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. Our American identity has become synonymous with being bold and different. While we may see this uniqueness as empowering, others might not. During the America vs. England match, American fans in the stadium could be heard chanting “It’s called soccer!” and English fans could be seen rolling their eyes. 

While chants like these may draw a chuckle, they represent our unwillingness to cooperate with the world. It’s represented in our foreign policy. The United States talks a good game on human rights and international law, but it has refused to sign most human rights treaties. It’s also still not a member of the International Criminal Court, regardless of which party is in power. 

This electric World Cup final showed to me that we aren’t that out of touch with the world. My friends and I weren’t rooting for one team, but an entertaining match. On top of our own fairly successful run in the World Cup, I hope that Americans have realized we don’t need to always be the mavericks of the world. We can watch the same matches and be passionate about the same sport that others care so much about. We must work to keep finding this common ground.

I am part of the generation that will land people on Mars. I am also a part of the generation that will combat the effects of climate change. These existential risks aren’t going to be solved by Americans alone. We must work together as a global community. This World Cup tournament can be an inviting step in learning how to engage, unite, and celebrate with the world.

Disclaimer: This author has used a pen name and any associations are purely coincidental.

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