By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When the World Cup began on June 14, it was a horrible day for my family. My husband’s supposed minor surgery became a major operation, which took more than three hours. To remove his appendix, it involved a technique called laparoscopic appendectomy, mainly three incisions, one umbilical and two suprapubic on the stomach.
But the one-hour surgery soon developed into open surgery, requiring a four-centimeter incision. The surgeon found his appendix not only inflamed, but with much scar tissue.
After the operation, George was in deep pain, and wasn’t able to sleep. With pale and sunken cheeks, he could hardly swallow.
Those were physical setbacks. But the mental challenges were hard on him. His once busy life — holding the Northwest Asian Weekly’s operation together — vanished. Without choice, he was confined to our condo. His purpose has been lost. Boredom is torture, especially for diligent folks like my hubby.
During recuperation, people forget that the body needs time to heal. The best thing is to do nothing, not even exercise. That just drives my husband insane. What can take his mind off things? I thought about getting him books and games. Soon, he discovered something better — the World Cup.
David vs. Goliath
If you watch the matches, you witness the passion not only of the players, but the fans. Why is the World Cup so exciting?
The unexpected! When David fought Goliath, everyone thought a tiny nation like Iceland playing Argentina, and weaker teams like Mexico playing Germany, a World Cup champion numerous times, were going to lose. Suddenly, the tide switched to favor the little guys. The disadvantaged were transformed to be heroes. Most recently, Japan scored 2-1 over Colombia. The incredible Germany couldn’t beat South Korea. Germany is now out of the World Cup. That Iceland vs. Argentina match literally brought my husband back to life, three days after his operation. And the Mexico vs. Germany match made him smile. Each game he watches helps him to regain his strength. He tapes many shows, and even shares with me the highlights with an explanation later in the evening, reminiscing much of the magic during the games. Each game, he enthusiastically recreates a beautiful story. I love to see his passion and how the sport has made him come alive again. If this is therapeutic for him, I am more than willing to listen.
Why is soccer a global game?
Soccer is popular because it’s easier to understand than American football and baseball. Over 290 million people in the world play soccer, and over one billion people watch the World Cup.
I was in Morocco in 2000. Kids played soccer everywhere, even in narrow streets. All they needed was a soccer ball and no fancy equipment. One cheap ball was enough to entertain 20, 30 kids, and other kids to applaud. It breaks the poverty cycle for many young promising players. The sport transcends barriers and generations.
I have to confess, I don’t have time to watch the matches. (Seldom do I finish watching an entire basketball game, even though it is my favorite sport.) I live for the “iron” foot kicking the ball into the net, a player’s head bumping the ball past the helpless goalkeeper, complex teamwork and skills to make things happen, and coaches outsmarting each other. It’s about the hugs, cheers, somersaults, fists, and kisses after the goal. And oh, the wonderful piling of the players on top of one another is fun to watch. I will never forget how two Japanese players saluted each other after scoring. Their joy lifted my spirit.
China, Russia, and the U.S.
We are disappointed that China and the United States didn’t make it to the World Cup. It’s a shame that the two most powerful countries, which can draw a lot more television viewers, didn’t qualify. The organizers lost a lot of revenue consequently.
We have the Seattle Sounders, but it doesn’t do us any good. Two of the players represented other countries in the World Cup. Despite China having the largest population in the world, it couldn’t groom a team of soccer athletes. Shortsighted! Perhaps, China has spent too much attention over the Olympics.
Now, Russia not only has a team qualified to play in the World Cup, it is also the host.
What does it say about Vladimir Putin and President Trump as leaders? When Putin is determined to get something, he plays dirty to win. Putin wanted to host the World Cup so badly that Russia spied on England on its bidding proposal, according to the New York Times. The outcome for Russia’s major role is positive as it produces tons of publicity and prestige, since the event spans a month long, with several matches a day. Each match takes more than two hours. Think about the potential business and tourism opportunities. The visibility and impact before and after the World Cup is long lasting globally.
Trump plays dirty, too, in politics and business. But his vision towards America is limited — he views what is good for America only in business and profit margins, but lacks interests and depth in many areas, which can also make America stand out. His limited world-view will likely make America less competitive in many fields.
Asia and Seattle
I would never have imagined that the World Cup would have served a key role in George’s recovery. George found a new purpose by updating me with everything he reads, watches, and hears about the sport. The best news is, the World Cup has proposed expanding from 32 teams, to 48 teams in the future.
Out of the 32 countries represented, only Japan and South Korea are really from Asia, although Egypt and Saudi Arabia are listed under the category of Asian nations. We hope to see not just China, but many more Asian countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia included in the next World Cup.
Wouldn’t it be cool if the Seattle Sounders’ players get to participate and play for the United States? I am rooting for that. Maybe they will have a chance in the next World Cup when the United States, Canada, and Mexico will co-host in 2026. I wouldn’t be surprised if George would be glued to the television everyday, and would even desire to be at CenturyLink Field to see some games in person.
Out of respect, I showed my article to George before Northwest Asian Weekly went to press.
“You saved me, not the World Cup,” he said.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.