Monday, June 12, 2006

Futbol, the Most Beautiful Sport in the World

I have always been a futbol (soccer) fan, though I have to admit I have lost touch with the sport a bit in the past years. I'm not very good at playing it so I quit, but I have always enjoyed watching the game. I can honestly say that it is the only sport I can watch on television and never get bored. The ball is always moving, the clock never stops- there is a guaranteed maximum game time of 2 hours start to finish. I mean- I like watching a basketball, football or baseball game as long as I'm AT the game- not sitting on some couch entertaining myself with beer and junk food.

I have to admit that I like to see all the slide tackling and roughness in soccer as well.

If you haven't watched futbol before, take a couple of hours in the next month and watch a World Cup match. (I suggest sooner rather than later.) I became addicted to watching the World Cup after just a minute of watching the England vs. Paraguay game early Saturday morning. I watched all 5 other matches this past weekend and I have the "MatchCast" behind my PowerCADD window and check it frequently while I'm here at work.... I even go to the local British pub at lunchtime to watch the first half of the noon (PST) games.

I think soccer is a form of art. Such amazing use of the human body relative to the ball is somehow so beautiful. The game is simple and complex at the same time. John Lancaster best describes the elegance of the sport in the June 2006 issue of National Geographic:

"At some deep level the reason soccer snags us is that good soccer is beautiful, and it's difficult, and the two are related. A team kicking the ball to each other, passing into empty space that is suddenly filled by a player who wasn't there two seconds ago and who is running at full pelt and who without looking or breaking stride knocks the ball back to a third player who he surely can't have seen, who, also at full pelt and without breaking stride, the passes the ball, at say 60 miles an hour, to land on the head of a fourth player who has run 75 yards to get there and who, again all in stride, jumps and heads the ball with, once you realize how hard this is, unbelievable power and accuracy toward a corner of the goal just exactly where the goalkeeper, executing some complex physics entirely without conscious thought and through muscle-memory, has expected it to be, so that all this grace and speed and muscle and athleticism and attention to detail and power and precision will never appear on a score sheet and will be forgotten by everybody a day later- this is the strange fragility, the evanescence of soccer. It's hard to describe and it is even harder to do, but it does have a deep beauty, a beauty hard to talk about and that everyone watching a game discovers for themselves, a secret thing, and this is the reason why soccer, which has so much ugliness around it and attached to it, still sinks so deeply into us: Because it is, it can be, so beautiful."

I understand though that one may have to play or have played the game and know the rules to thoroughly enjoy watching it and to fully appreciate it.

I really love watching the players faces as well as the game itself. So many emotions are revealed- anger, pain, happiness, anticipation, pressure, aggressiveness, competitiveness. The fans' faces can be equally as emotional. When the first goal was scored fairly late in the first half of the Italy vs. Ghana game (Ghana being the underdog- this is the country's first World Cup ever), the camera went to a young boy in Ghana's colors whose entire body sank as his face fell into his hands. It was only maybe 2 seconds of footage, but the overwhelming emotion of that boy made me want to cry. Everyone watching the boy made the choral and contrite "awww."

Language & Diversity
To give a view of soccer worldwide, articles in this National Geographic issue prove that soccer stops wars, starts wars, sells products, is a performance, heals countries, makes grown men weep, promotes peace and provokes violence that sometimes leads to death. Henning Mankell writes, "War could never kill soccer in Angola. The soccer fields are demilitarized zones.... It is harder for people who play soccer together to go out and kill each other." How can ONE thing be so powerful?

The diversity of the teams and their respective languages also adds to the World Cup in that opposing teams may not speak the same language and therefore, neither receives cues that would normally allow players to read the other team's strategy. This communication barrier is also advantageous relative to the referees. When a call is made by a referee and an argument is made by a player because of the call, the ref may not understand the language of the player and so no time is wasted on the clock for a "bad call."

Overall though, the sport is universal. It is played (or can be played) in every country in the world. In National Geographic Sean Wilsey writes, "Soccer's universality is its simplicity-- the fact that the game can be played anywhere with anything. Urban children kick the can on concrete and rural kids kick a rag wrapped around a rag wrapped around a rag, barefoot, on dirt."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Muchas Gracias!

For all you out there who are die hards and have been hounding me to keep blogging, I am convinced that there is magically less time in a day the further away from the equator you are. I will still blog but I am afraid that until my life settles down (moving into my condo over the next couple of weeks!) I will be randomly writing.

I have endless thanks for you for reading. There were so many times when I thought my writing was only for myself. I learned fairly quickly who was reading everyday. I soon began to "view blog" as soon as I logged in to see if anyone had left comments. It really brightened my day to see new comments! It really meant a lot to me that you took the time to read and comment, that you were as interested in my adventure as I was and that you gave me such great support while I was in Guatemala. I know your support will continue now that I am back and I want to thank you.

Muchas Gracias!

ps- I have added photos to a lot of my posts and I will continue to add photos as I receive them in e-mails....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Back to the Real World

I don't think I experienced culture shock arriving in Guatemala like I did when I got back to Portland. It was rainy and I was not ready to come back to the real world. I really love Portland, but mentally I am still in Guatemala. It was really great to see everyone here but I expected some things that never happened: I expected to miss luxuries like my pickup, my cell phone, pizza, the english language. It seems the only luxury I missed was sushi and I can do without that, really.

I had a hard time at the Atlanta airport listening to all the english speakers. I kept trying to translate phrases into spanish. I still am, though the urge has lessened which makes me sad because I know I have already begun to lose some of the spanish I worked on for the entire month. I don't want to speak english, I want to keep learning and being immersed in spanish. I hate that I kind of have no control over that. All the inside jokes that my fellow spanish students and I shared aren't as funny to anyone here... I try to explain them, but all I get is a small chuckle. I miss Norberto, Yes-si, Sterling, Bea, Janneke, Sergej, Lisa, Sanne and Carolina so much.

The only thing I am unhappy with is my weight gain. I gained 11 pounds! My baggiest pants before I left are now pretty snug. I am proud that I didn't hold back at all while in Guatemala though. I ate dessert whenever I wanted to, I usually cleaned my plate of delicious "tipico" food and I drank horchata and cuba libras like they were going out of style. It is time again to log on to and begin my diet again. The hardest part will be retraining myself to refuse all the portion sizes and fatty foods which I enjoyed so much while gone.

I won't miss being gawked and whistled at by the local men while walking down the street. I won't miss the noisy, roaring buses blowing dust and black exhaust in my face. I won't miss the local men grabbing me and trying to get me to salsa dance against my will. I will not miss Monoloco. And surpisingly, I won't miss guacamole. But I will miss Guatemala as a whole.

I still hesitate about where to put my toilet paper.