There is something profoundly wrong with a World Cup where Canada qualified and Italy didn’t. Still, I have been watching the matches. There are many ways to enjoy the World Cup, even if – like me – you are neither a sports nor a soccer fan. One of my favourites has always been by making World War II jokes. With Germany and Japan eliminated and Italy not present, that’s a bit of a tougher call, though as I write this, we still have France and Argentina (surrenderers and the refuge of the wicked, respectively). Of course, the young and the woke might prefer to divide the countries between the colonizers and the colonized, the gender fluid and the gender rigid, the good and the bad. (And they likely would not agree with me about which countries fall under the “good” label.)
A propos, our little armbands are not going to change any hearts, minds, or objectionable regimes, in Qatar or elsewhere. What will make a difference is the true courage of the Iranian team refusing to sing their anthem. (Yes, they did sing later in the tournament, but one can be certain this was done under duress.) Or people in China watching on television and noticing stands full of unmasked fans and crowds of people from around the world not barricaded into their apartments. Or the absolute graciousness of the American team captain (see previous post) and the magnanimity of the U.S. team in a moment that could have been a blustery display of political posturing – the victory over the Iranian team.
(Of course, the cultural differences between countries that respect the rights of the individual – the basis of liberalism – and those that don’t is tremendous. But there is also a wide gulf in a more superficial area: fashion. I can’t help but notice that soccer coaches, particularly those from Europe, are all dressed like they came off the Armani runway. Whereas North American coaches are basically a notch above Fetterman.)
While I was happy to see Morocco do well – I was hoping for an African or Asian team to go far – I am pleased France is in the final. I lived in France and continue to visit there when possible. So I’m rooting for them in Sunday’s match, but unlike some fans, I will survive if Argentina wins. Seriously, a South American friend of mine was telling me that Brazil’s loss to Croatia might have caused suicides – soccer in Latin America is that important. Sheesh. So if France wins, please, Argentina supporters, keep it in perspective.
Although I have been watching some of the Women’s World Cup, I freely admit that it is not anywhere as interesting as the World Cup (i.e., the men’s tournament). I love soccer and even spent a tiny fortune a couple of years ago in Italy to attend a Serie A match.
But the women’s game is just, well, kind of boring. It isn’t that the Women’s World Cup athletes aren’t extraordinary and talented. Of course, they are. So what are the differences and why isn’t the women’s game as exciting? I think Duleep Allirajah sums up the matter here. I would agree with the reasons he gives for the discrepancies, though he leaves one out of the equation: for reasons on which I can’t quite put my finger, it is not nearly as much fun to make World War II jokes while watching the Women’s World Cup. For example, as I type this, I am watching the Germany-England third place match. And even though the English have a goalkeeper named Chamberlain, I can’t muster up a good Sudetenland joke!
Why is that?
In part, it may be that there were not female soldiers in combat during World War II. But maybe there are other reasons. I don’t know. Perhaps we don’t think of women as warriors (silly, as women can be far more vicious and petty fighters than men), or maybe it all comes down to the lack of physical power and speed in the women’s game, making it less likely to inspire a “panzer” joke. Whatever the reasons, it’s a crying shame, because the final tomorrow is a U.S.-Japan battle.
I’ll be watching, but I won’t be screaming “Tora, Tora, Tora!”
In honour of MLB season starting up, and for my friend Gerry — who loves baseball — and in memory of my late brother, Alan — who used to regale me with tales of his Little League days — I give you a few seconds of Italian Little League batting practice. I stood next to this young man’s proud parents last Saturday morning in Perugia, and chatted with them. (The video is very short, because they seemed a bit perplexed that I was filming/taking pics. Can’t say I blame them.) It was a complete fluke that I discovered the league. I was just out for a walk in some green space on the periphery of the city. They are under-14s, and from what I could see, quite passionate. Mind you, Italians seem passionate all the time about everything.