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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson

The World’s Game

Soccer: It Speaks the World’s Language

Someone once said that the secret to world peace was to adopt a universal language; one common language that would eliminate misunderstanding and foster shared purpose. As I’ve watched the run up to the 2010 World Cup, I’ve thought we may really be getting closer to the one world language – the language of the world’s game – soccer.

Loyal readers in this space know that baseball is my game, but when the World Cup rolls around who cannot be a soccer fan. I can still remember my two young sons darting around a soccer pitch on very cold Saturday mornings in the fall while I huddle on the sideline trying to keep warm with a cup of hot coffee. While urging them on, I stood there shivering and wondering just what the rules of this foreign game were all about. My soccer knowledge hasn’t progressed all that far in the intervening years, but I have come to appreciate the skill and athleticism of the great players and, of course, the social phenomenon of soccer is fascinating.

This World Cup, to read the experts, is all about the rise of African soccer and ESPN has a great piece on what soccer means to Africa. I know what it means in England, Ireland and South America.

I spent a day earlier this year touring Montevideo, Uruguay – now there is a soccer mad country – and quickly learned of that country’s real religion. Most Uruguayans are Roman Catholic, but soccer is the true national religion and probably has more true believers. After all the World Cup originated there. The same situation prevails in Argentina, a country bedeviled with a long history of political and economic instability, but a nation in the first rank when it comes to futbol.

So, I’ll check the baseball box scores on a daily basis as I always do, but I’ll make a point to catch some of the World Cup action over the next few days. Brazil and maybe Spain are considered favorites, but I’ll be pulling for the other South Americans – Argentina and Uruguay.

By the way, and with acknowledgement that its almost impossible to miss the World Cup hype and coverage, one of the classiest marketing efforts associated with the big event has been the campaign of the luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

The Vuitton campaign, including a really cool website, features the great Brazilian soccer star Pele, the Frenchman Zinedane Zidane and the Argentine Diego Maradona. Some marketing genius, and I mean that as a compliment, came up with the idea of having the three aging soccer stars play a Foosball game and respond to a long series of soccer questions. Great marketing and good soccer lore.

Baseball is still an American game. Soccer belongs to the world. The next month should be fascinating.

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