The Healing Power of the World Cup

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.

children playing soccer on dirt lotMany 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. 🙂

8 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Amy Wallace July 3, 2010

    I have to admit that I have never watched a World Cup game, but I”m glad that it can bring joy to the people of Haiti who need a reason to smile.

  2. Dana June 30, 2010

    Sounds like a good reason to cheer for Brazil. 🙂 If Brazil winning will bring happiness to many of the people of Haiti, then Brazil has my support. Wonder what team my little Christine is cheering for.

  3. Princess Leia June 30, 2010

    It also happened in Iraq with the 2004 Olympics. Iraq’s team, which had so recently been under the thumb of Saddam’s sadistic son not only qualified for the Olympics, but they won several games! Iraq may be a conglomeration of people groups, religions, and ethnicities that was thrown together after WWI, but when the soccer team won, there was almost as much celebratory gunfire as when Saddam’s sons were killed! Iraq was truly united in a way that no system of government will ever do.

  4. Mike Stephens June 30, 2010

    When we arrive in Tanzania July 17 the World Cup will be over but one last match will take place between Bushiri and myself! 😉

  5. Dee Dee June 30, 2010

    does anyone know where to buy world cup soccor cards or stickers??? thanks

    1. Lisa July 1, 2010

      There are a few sites online that sell them — google World Cup Soccer Cards 2010. One site is selling packs of cards and stickers for 99-cents.

      I bought a soccer/football magazine and cut out some pics of the different players and sent those a few months before the World Cup started. But I think the sticker and soccer card idea is great!

  6. Lisa June 30, 2010

    My Ethiopian kids were SOOOO excited about the World Cup. They were asking me for predictions via letter. (I think I predicted Spain or South Africa as coming out on top.) Sports certainly do inspire and bring people together. I’m a bookish nerd, but my husband is a sports fanatic and I do get a glimpse of what’s beautiful about sports through him, from time to time. 🙂

  7. Juli Jarvis June 30, 2010

    I remember being in Haiti in 2002, and many were crowded around a small TV at our restaurant watching the World Cup. And yes — Brazil won that year, for the 5th time.

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