We were never much of a sports fan, though we were loyal to the Giants baseball team, which was most character building. Other than that, we were indifferent. We had barely heard of soccer and thought it was something only Latin Americans played. Then we left the homeland and discovered how very thick were the blinders we had been wearing.
We spent some years in Brazil, the land of "the beautiful game". There, where every bank and shop shuts and the streets are emptied when Brazil's team has a match during the World Cup, it was impossible not to learn about it. We were told that for Brazilians it is not enough to win; the team must play beautifully and win. Intriguing. So we began to watch World Cup matches on television. Like every American who watches for the first time, we could not believe how hard the players ran and struggled to score just one point. It seemed crazy, like paying hundreds of dollars for a small square of chocolate. What finally captured us were first, the overhead camera shots in which one could see the geometry of a play and second, the fancy-dancy footwork. It is indeed, at times, a beautiful game.
Of course, it is not the perfect game. We do not like football hooligans. We do not like the Saxon squads' penchant to "go for injury" whenever outplayed. Most definitely, we do not like what one journalist referred to as Italy's "dark arts of football". We do like the beauty of the skill and teamwork, and the way the team will play their hearts out for one precious goal.
We are in another World Cup year, now living in France where, though their team made fools of themselves this year, the nation is passionate about the event. The World Cup is different from anything we ever saw in America. It changes people, brings them together in a temporary camaraderie. When the cup is won, everyone in the winning country pours into the streets and hugs one another with joy, as if a war had ended. Nationalism can be a dangerous thing, but in the same way that the presidential election allows a controlled revolution every four years in America, so the World Cup allows a controlled resurgence of nationalism. Never, for the Super Bowl or the World Series, is all of America united behind one team, but during the World Cup, entire nations are together in their support of their team, and all of France is for "Les Bleus".
If you think one of your more recent ancestors may have played for Les Bleus in the World Cup, you can check your hunch against the team lists for every World Cup since it began in 1930 on the website of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA.
Select any of the years when the World Cup was held:
When the next screen comes up, click on the word "teams" in the horizontal bar:
then on France:
to get the complete list of names and each player's date of birth:
Enjoy the remaining matches!
©2010 Anne Morddel