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Every four years, people from every end of the globe flock to their smart TV’s, pubs, friends house, or attend a watch party for the sports phenomena known as FIFA World Cup. It is estimated that over 3.2 billion people watched the 2014 edition of the sport known as football everywhere but the U.S. (we call it soccer).
So why is the World Cup so popular?
“Football is universal language that we speak with different accents,” says Tim Vickery, a soccer journalist based in Rio. “The biggest patriotic act people engage in is cheering on their team during the World Cup…It reaches them at a profound level because it is their country and the people being represented in the eyes of the rest of the world.”
National pride. Something everyone has felt when watching the World Cup. But the irony to this is at a time in which patriotism has hit an all-time low in America, many in this country love to watch the World Cup because of the – wait for it – patriotism, as expressed by each nation represented. Here is the other irony: for the first time in more than three decades, the U.S. will not be competing in the World Cup. Coincidence? I suppose, though I’m not one to believe in coincidences any more than I believe in the tooth fairy.
At the very least, our absence from this worldwide event is a symbol of the lack of pride or patriotism that our country expresses on the whole. So why would a country that lacks the desire to show patriotism be so interested in a sport that exudes it? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Let’s try this…Why is patriotism important everywhere else but here?
Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup. This year brought out a deeper national pride that had not been seen for sometime, according to the fans. Many more Germans were flying the flag than had been seen in decades past. “Why shouldn’t we fly our flag? Everyone else does it,” says young fan Stephanie Bele. “I know a lot bad things have happened in Germany in the past. But that was another time.” The German National team did not win the World Cup that year. But they made it to the semi-finals and finished 3rd after defeating Portugal 3-1 in the Third Place Match. Many reports showed a renewed sense of pride from German citizens, reflected in a popular chant expressing this new found patriotism…”Steht auf, wenn ihr Deutsche seid”, which means, “Stand up if you’re German”.
While Germans prefer standing up, America has been divided over the phenomena of kneeling. When NFL players began protesting our national anthem by taking a knee rather than standing, as has been the custom, it exposed a growing divide in our country that has left many pondering even the most fundamental elements of our patriotism. With our nation steeped in a political and cultural battle that has not been seen in nearly fifty years, it causes me to pause over where our patriotism has gone.
Patriotism seems to be caught in the middle of a long tug-of-war between what America has been and what many want it to become. The question I ask is why must we punish the many souls of our past that defended our great, but recently wounded nation for the identity crisis which plagues us? The brave men and women that fought to keep our nation free are the ones in which we dishonor by stepping on the flag, sitting for the Pledge of Allegiance, or not standing when the anthem plays.
We can have our disagreements without being disrespectful. We can protest without dishonoring our veterans from past or present. And we can keep discourse going without causing bodily harm or violence towards one another.
So, remember when you watch the World Cup matches…think about why this country matters to you. Think about your fellow citizens and what they mean to you. Think about those who fought bravely to defend your right to hold your beliefs, and not be persecuted for having them. Think about why so many of those people from the countries represented in the World Cup want to come to America. And maybe you will rediscover why patriotism is important in America, as well.
(Chris Gaines is an author and Editor-In-Chief for Patriot Gaines. He resides in the Cedar Valley of Northern Iowa with his wife, Jennifer, and two kids, Patrick & Megan.)
Photo Sources: TheLocal.de, The Estate Office Shoreditch, and Google Images