Some of us will go to great lengths to watch the World Cup football games, remembering the expression that football is not a matter of life and death, as it is more important than that. We love to travel, but the only time we have seen the World Cup in person, it came to us.
The World Cup of 1994.
When the FIFA Football World Cup came to the United States in 1994, it was a major sporting event. Not only were all the games easily available on television, but there were games in various parts of the country, so fans everywhere had a chance to see a game in person. We were fortunate to be living in Pasadena, California at the time, not far from the Rose Bowl, which was the site of a number of games, including the final. We were not fortunate enough to win the lottery held for final tickets, however.
For a family of soccer fans, this was a really big deal. We had relatives who came from England and Kansas to get chance to see some games, and we had tickets for the first games played by the United States and more. Even living close by, it was easier to take a shuttle bus from the parking lot to the Rose Bowl, and seeing the crowd there let us know that soccer was indeed now a big time sport in the USA, regardless of what crabby sports writers who feared the game because they didn’t understand it would have us believe. The fans wore their national shirts, of course, but also huge blond wigs for the Columbians, face paint in every national color, flags, banners, and enthusiasm which rocked the bus.
At the games, the crowd was so international that there were people cheering for every team. When the United States wasn’t playing, the good natured crowd cheered every good play, regardless of which team made it, which generally amazed foreign journalists. What is called the Mexican Wave rippled around the Rose Bowl again and again, and a good time was had by all.
After Brazil won the final, we thought we might go over to Old Town in Pasadena and have a drink or two with the celebrating fans. We found a parking place and started to walk into the area with good bars and restaurants, but immediately saw that a drink or a seat was out of the question. The streets were closed for blocks in all directions, and the masses celebrating were amazing. It was a big spontaneous street festival of singing and dancing fans, and they were not all the winning Brazilians. There was little room to squeeze between people, so when the crowd of English fans, waving their British flag, danced past us, singing “Brazil, Brazil,” we had no choice but to join in.
Memories of that wonderful and successful party which was the World Cup in 1994 may encourage FIFA to consider giving the games again to the United States. Our fans are ready for the big time now!
The World Cup of 1998.
By 1998, we were living aboard a sailboat which we had sailed as far as Australia, a country which is about as sports mad as you will find. The games were all on television which was great.
We had a small TV and a round thing called an antenna which was hauled into the rigging and tied down when the reception was good. We were traveling up the coast inside the Great Barrier Reef, and anchored in places where reception was good so we could see as many games as possible.
We were enjoying one of England’s games when reception gradually deteriorated and almost vanished. When we popped our heads out of the hatch we realized the problem. The tide had shifted, and our boat was making a nice semi-circular trip to a new location in the channel. There was some scrambling, and yelling up and down, “Yes! No! Right there! Well, you stay outside holding it there and I’ll tell you how the game is going.” That last comment was from me, but my husband didn’t seem to think it was reasonable. By the end of half time we had our reception back and watched the rest of the game, not pleased with the results, however. After that, we managed to get a space in Airlie Marina where we could watch the next games on a steady boat.
The World Cup of 2002.
We had sailed our boat all the way around Africa to the Caribbean, and were in the Virgin Islands as the World Cup of 2002 approached. We were not in a soccer loving place, and most of the games would only be available on cable. Out at anchor we would not be able to watch, and even if we could find local sports bars showing the games, the times from Japan and Korea included middle of the night and early mornings.
We made the only practical decision for soccer fans. We got a berth in the marina, paying for a month, which was outrageously expensive, but we joked that it was cheaper than airline fares and tickets to the games in Asia. We even had a video recorder on board so we could get some sleep and watch at reasonable hours. Unfortunately, there were sometimes changes in the TV schedule made which we didn’t know about, and there were even some cable connection failures. The office staff at the marina got to know me, as I would appear at the door in distress, explaining, “The cable is out and we may miss a game!” Thanks to their efforts, we saw almost all the games.
The World Cup of 2010.
We will be watching the games at home in Virginia, sometimes with friends, sometimes hibernating with our TV and DVR remotes in hand, drapes drawn, food and drink nearby. We have two big HD televisions, each recording the games so we can go between them and not miss a kick. We’ll be comfortable, with no antennas to worry about, no marinas to find, and no tides turning our condo around in the middle of the game. I know we will enjoy every one of the games, and we are looking forward to seeing some of the festivities from South Africa, a place we spent months of our sailing time and really love.
However, just sometimes, we will look out the window and think about the view which doesn’t change now as our home no longer floats. Each World Cup event brings back memories of where we were for the past games and a curiosity about where we might be for the next one.