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The FIFA World Cup – Why it’s more than just Football (sorry ‘Soccer’)

Last minute epic winners. World champions being knocked out by underdogs. Highly-debatable VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology decisions. Even a minor earthquake in Mexico. The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has had it all. And there’s still more to come.

Whether you’re a soccer fan or not, it’s hard to ignore how uplifting and captivating this tournament is. Yes, it’s essentially 90 minutes of 22 players trying to put a polyester and latex ball in the opposition’s net. But when you look past the events on the field and slowly turn your attention towards the carnival atmosphere that surrounds it, you start to see a much bigger and more inspirational picture.

Unbelievable Passion

Whether it’s players crying tears of joy or weeping in heartbreak at the final whistle, representing your country on the world stage is a huge achievement. These are moments that will last with them forever. And the same can be said for those watching on television and from the stands.

For example, South Americans treat international games like festivals rather than sport. The Columbian fans fervently sang, cheered and booed for an entire 90 minutes against England, creating noise that completely drowned out the opposing supporters. One story even claims that a group of Peruvian fans quit their jobs and sold all their worldly possessions to follow their team to Russia. Now that’s commitment.

From Iran to Panama

Canadians adore their ice-hockey, Kiwis love rugby and the Finns fiercely compete in Wife Carrying (honestly). No matter how different these sports are, they all attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. This year countries like Iceland, who approximately have a population of 334,000 went up against 2-time winners Argentina. Panama played against Belgium. Columbia lost to Japan. Only in soccer would you see these countries face off against one another and battle for the coveted golden cup. And it all starts with a soccer ball.

Unity over Division

With so much tension over politics, trade agreements, sovereignty and many more divisive issues, it’s refreshing for people to enjoy a few weeks where nations are brought together and unified in moments of celebration. Of course, we should never ignore the more pressing issues at hand and always work tirelessly to make the world a better place. But tournaments like these break down cultural and national barriers and bring people together from all over the world.

Unlike the Olympics, the World Cup is the only truly, single-sport global event. But football is more than just a sport. It’s a language that transcends races, cultures and identities. It has the power to unite people and bring men, women, children all together to celebrate, gasp, howl, cry and most importantly, believe.