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A new passion, a new perspective

June 20, 2006|by RYAN WILLARD

I finally found something to entertain my dull afternoons. You see, after noon, I have absolutely nothing to do. With no job right now, I have nothing to do but read "The Chronicles of Narnia" over and over. No offense to C.S. Lewis, but even that can get a tad boring.

So a week ago today I decided to flip through TV channels, and see if I could find a miracle of an interesting show. After rummaging pass a jewelry channel, I stumbled upon a soccer game where the U.S. was facing the Czech Republic.

"Is this live?" I thought to myself. Sure enough, a little "live" symbol reassured me that it was. "What the heck? So what if it's soccer?" I didn't expect much.

Ninety minutes later a realization hit me: I liked soccer. I liked the devotion, I liked the speed, I liked the raw emotion that the players showed, I liked the fact that in those 90 minutes I was fully interested, even though people that watched that sort of thing told me soccer was boring.

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Before this game - part of the World Cup, the once-every-four-years championship of international soccer - I always considered it bizarre that so many countries were devoted to soccer. But after that game, I got it.

The next day, when I was watching the Brazil-Croatia game, a goal by the heavily favored Brazil team sent the stadium into a frenzy. The fact that the World Cup is in Germany this year made my mouth drop. The announcer had it right when he spoke about the crowd shortly after: "In Brazil, soccer to them is a religion." He was right. Here were Brazilians, traveling over an ocean to a different continent, just to see their national team play.

There is a team from the Ivory Coast, an African country in civil war. This is the first time the Ivory Coast team made it to the World Cup, and both parties that are fighting decided to call a cease-fire for the time being, just to watch their soccer team play.

Most Americans, for whom soccer is a minor sport at best, find this funny. But after becoming addicted to soccer now, I understand why it's so important to people of other nations. What does Brazil have? What does the Ivory Coast, a country in ruin, have right now? They have hope. The hope that their soccer team will win it all and make their country proud.

You can see it when you watch them run as fast as they can and battle as hard as they can. Here I am, watching them and envying every step they take. They have nothing and work so much just to win - and I'm complaining about how to fill my empty afternoons.

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