Thanks to all the media coverage, and the connectivity and immediacy of Facebook and Twitter, it seems like absolutely everyone in the world has World Cup fever.
But this year, the World Cup is more than a global soccer tournament. (Or football, depending on where you reside.)
For one small, devastated country, it’s so much more than that. It’s about hope. It’s about unity. It’s about joining together in support of a team simply for the fun of it. It’s an escape from the reality of daily life.
After six long months of trying to piece their homeland back together, it’s a way for Haitians to relax and de-stress, if only for 90 minutes.
The most recent report I read from our staff in Haiti included this:
When Brazil scored its first goal of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, a cheer went up that could be heard all over this earthquake-ravaged capital.
Haiti, which is still digging out from the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake that killed about 250,000 people, did not qualify for the soccer competition in South Africa. But the Haitian people badly need a team to root for to lift their spirits, and most are cheering for the powerful Brazilian team.
Many Haitians hope that, sometime in the near future, Haiti, which played its only World Cup in 1974, will qualify again.
“We are surrounded by the evidence of the earthquake, but the World Cup is at least momentarily resurrecting our people,” said a young man.
Around his neck, another young man wears a light blue rosary, identifying himself as a fan of Argentina, the second most popular team among Haitians.
Crossing the city, it is impossible to escape Haitians’ support for Brazil. Motorcycles and cars fly the yellow, green and blue flag. Men and women wear the bright yellow shirts of the Brazilian team.
“What we really need is jobs, development, and education. But the World Cup is very good for us right now because it is helping us get rid of stress.”
The World Cup is now more important to me. I don’t know why exactly, but competitive sports create a spirit of unity that lifts up battered souls.
It happened after 9/11. It happened after Hurricane Katrina. And it’s happening now with the World Cup.
Even though I’ve never followed professional soccer before, it makes me smile to think of the joy the World Cup is bringing to Haiti. I just might join the Haitians in cheering on Brazil.