Hello, fútbol fans! You can stop sending poor Jobu angry emails and death threats. After some pretty hairy, last-minute negotiations I’ve agreed to join in the 2014 World Cup post extravaganza here at The Rum. The truth is, I was a little depressed after having to chronicle Nacional’s historically awful Libertadores Cup campaign and I didn’t really feel like writing about the world’s only real sport, but how can I not get swept up in World Cup fever? I can’t! Let’s get to it!
Now, I’m not going to be covering my beloved La Celeste over the next month. I’ll leave that to Jobu, because he’s a pretty huge fan himself, and frankly I seem to have picked up a reputation as a jinx and I want no part of that to mess with the boys. I thought briefly about picking a team I hate instead, trying my best to knock them off as early as possible through the sheer power of my words, but that’s not really a lot of fun, and besides, Karma knows better. I’m sure if that was my plan we’d be watching that very team lifting the cup a month from now. So, no in-depth analysis of Argentina or Brazil from this guy, either.
In the end, I decided on a two-tier approach. For the most part, I’ll just be sitting here following the action and weighing in when a sophisticated soccer fan’s point of view (no offense, Jobu) is required to put an event in its proper context. I’ll catch as much of the action as my family and employer will allow (damn them all) and let you know when something captures my attention.
On the other hand, the best part of a tournament like this one is identifying with a specific team and watching those players go through the ups and downs of THE CUP, like I was able to do with Uruguay four years ago. So I will also be providing a (bandwagon) fan’s point of view on one lucky team, and this time around that team is Belgium. I’ll be checking in with game reports and any other information I can pass along about the Red Devils’ quest for soccer immortality.
Why Belgium? Well, other than the fact that you can root for a team called the Red Devils that is NOT Manchester United, Belgium is one of the most interesting stories coming into this World Cup. They have come out of nowhere to establish themselves as a top FIFA squad despite a small population base, a severe lack of pizzazz, and oh yeah, the fact that they may not even be one country for much longer.
They play an attractive and demanding style of soccer that is taught at all levels of the Belgian soccer system. They have just enough history on the world soccer scene: one of only 4 European teams that bothered to show up for the first Cup (Uruguay 1930), semifinalists in Mexico ’86, and Eurocup runners-up in 1980. However, they have never truly capitalized on their potential and have been pretty much in the soccer wilderness for the last 20 years. Now they’re back with a fresh infusion of talent that looks a lot less like the lily-white golden generation of the 80s and a lot more like a full-blown Benetton ad, following the trends in France, England, and other European powers. I mean, what other team can claim both a World Cup group seed and solid underdog status at the same time? They’re fascinating and should be great fun over the next month, and I want to be there for it.
If that didn’t convince you, I have two more data-driven and utterly compelling reasons:
- They’re my two-year-old daughter’s favorite team. I think it has to do with the fantastic afros on a few of the players. I’m not kidding. She can correctly identify many of the country flags and jerseys on the FIFA Panini virtual world cup sticker album. But the players she gets really excited about are the ones with the best hair. (I’m guessing that’s why she also spurned Luis Suárez for Diego Forlán as her favorite Uruguayan player)
- Jean. Claude. Van. Damme. The man can do a full split between two moving semis, for crying out loud. That’s some Matrix-level crap right there, and I’m ready to take the red pill and see where it leads me.
Featured image courtesy of: Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images
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