If you mention football in any country, outside of the United States, you will probably receive an enthusiastic response followed by serious commentary on details of the national team. Almost every country in the world supports a national squad, and the players on the squad are held in very high esteem. These teams represent the national pride of their homelands, and the honor is not taken lightly. The game may be a simple sport that involves kicking a ball into a net, but the ramifications of the game are felt worldwide.
Why the World Loves Football
Games that involved kicking balls have been common to all cultures worldwide since ancient times. The game taps into an almost instinctual human response to sport - keep the ball from your opponents and find a way to get it past their defenses into their home net. It is as strategically complicated as chess, yet simple and straightforward as battlefield warfare. That natural love of the game paired with the organizational efforts of a worldwide authority has given the game an unparalleled reach into large and small countries alike.
Early European Roots
The Europeans have played games similar to football since the early middle ages. Their crude, chaotic ball games eventually developed rules and organization to become the game we recognize today. The European Football Association was developed to give a sense of organization to the teams that already existed in Europe, and eventually its role expanded to make the game more accessible to the many fans who were interested in watching the matches. From these European teams, and the European colonists who took the game across seas and continents, the game was spread worldwide very effectively.
Today's football is much more polished and polite than the games of previous decades. Passion has always been a part of this rough and tumble game, but organizers have begun attempts to make it a little more civilized so that more corporate sponsors will feel comfortable advertizing with the sport. This rise in commercialization has brought unprecedented levels of popularity around the world, but it has robbed the game of some of its original charm. It hasn't exactly become the gentleman's sport of golf, but it is a little tamer than it used to be.
2010 World Cup
In 2010 the World Cup tournament will be held in South Africa. This tournament is one of the most anticipated series of games in all of football, and the winner is the undisputed champion of the world until the next tournament is played in four years. National teams spend quite a bit of money and time in the hopes of qualifying, and it can be crushing for the home country as well as the team if they don't make the cut. International tensions are usually tenser around the time of the World Cup, and this year there are plenty of controversial issues that will guarantee a charged atmosphere once the games begin in July. You can bet that the officiating will be closely watched, and fans will be on the edge of their seats for every match.
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