World Cup - What does it mean to you?
As the World Cup is just around the corner, it brings back quite the memories to me. What does the World Cup mean to you?
By far the most memorable World Cup was the 1994 World Cup. No, I wasn't so lucky to see any of the games live as no one played in Denver. Our family was in transition, living in a small apartment before we would move into the next house. We didn't even have tv service in our livingroom. That didn't matter to me one bit.
Before the World Cup in 1994, I was kicking around a soccer ball with my cousin Brian when he told me about the Italian team. I was impressed right away and took to liking them. Soon after that, I was wearing a Roberto Baggio jersey everywhere. Even though I had a favorite player, I also had a favorite American player I loved to watch - Cobi Jones (whose dreadlocks I wish I had).
It wasn't necessarily watching either of these two players play that made the World Cup so memorable, however. I was 10 years old and had already been playing soccer for 6 years. I was jealous of Peter being able to do a "rainbow" and worked effortlessly trying to kick a "banana kick." I wasn't going to become even a decent soccer player at that pace, but two games during the 1994 World Cup changed that destiny.
Since we didn't have tv service at the time, my best friend, Brian, taped two games for me to watch. Both games took place on June 22, 1994. The first one was a 4-1 Swiss victory over Romania, and the second one was an impressive 2-1 United States victory over Colombia (one of the goals for the US was an own goal by Andres Escobar - for which he was killed 10 days later for). It wasn't that these two games were among the most impressive in World Cup history, but they were the two games I had access to watching over, and over, and over...
Anyone in my family will tell you that during the Summer (and months and years following), I watched those games at least 30 times each. I could talk along with the announcers. I knew what move, play, call was next. I knew when they would show the fans holding the flags or the coaches look of disgust. I studied every single move of each of those games in detail. That was the beginning of a new soccer journey for me.
After studying those films, I became a new soccer player. I knew how to make up for being slow, short and unnoticed. I utilized those to sneak behind the defenders and score the headers in the back of the net. I knew how to place a ball through the defenders while looking the other way. I developed a touch that would've taken me years otherwise. I still was not the fastest nor most dominant player on the field, but I became the playmaker, the guy that made the plays unnoticed by most but admired by the few. It was all because of the 1994 World Cup - the two games that changed my life forever.
I would go on to play soccer in Denmark and Sweden two years later. I joined my brother's on our high school soccer team when I was in 8th grade, Patrick 10th, and Peter 12th. During that season, our homecoming game, Peter dribbled the ball down the field, crossed it to me, and I headed it past the diving goalie for the second goal in a 2-1 victory. I never developed into a world-class soccer player, but I was far better because of the 1994 World Cup than I would have been otherwise.
That's what the World Cup means to me. What does it mean to you?