Veteran ethnic media reporters share insights into why half the world is glued to the World Cup being played in Qatar.
The Soccer World Cup is the largest and most popular sports event on the planet. It is estimated that half of the world population would have watched some of its games by the time it ends in mid-December. But why is soccer so popular? What makes it “the people’s sport”? A recent Ethnic Media Services (EMS) briefing brought journalists and experts in the sport including Henrik Rehbinder, Journalist and Analyst, Charles Anchang, Co-Publisher, The Immigrant Magazine, Ehab Zenga, Professional Soccer Coach, and Owner, Legacy Anaheim FC; Director of Coaching, California Futbol Club and Andrew Howoon Jo, Owner & Director of Coaching, UMA FC, LaGrange, GA to share insight into the history and the reasons behind this phenomenon.
Love you and I really want to know how each of you got involved in the sport of soccer or football either as a fan or as a player, a fan or a coach
Agreeing with the simplicity of the sport they Shared similar stories growing up as kids and simply kicking a ball and playing with other kids. “We just are kicking in the street, just kicking it anywhere and if you have a ball, is a ball if you don’t have a ball.
Born in Africa, Charles Anchang expressed the importance of the experience of the Soccer World Cup in his as an immigrant whose journey began as part of the cultural team in the 1994 games. “It’s the best time in life, that I could sit and watch soccer from all over the world”. “
“In Cameroon where I was born, as young kids, there was no football league and kids used their creativity to make a football out of rubber. It is how people connect and that’s how I came to the United States because I was one of the business persons around the soccer team asked to come, and promote culture because of the success of the Cameroonian national. That’s how important it is to as it has helped put Cameroon on the map in Africa”
Others shared experiences about they started out playing soccer which sometimes involved supporting a family member to achieve their goals in professional soccer or for fun. Another factor that greatly influenced the game is the ease of the sport, “it’s a sport that is very easy to play you don’t require any special ability to be too tall, too strong, and you can be a small person, you can be a big person, and you can play well. You don’t need a lot of equipment, you can make a ball out of banana peels”.
The game of soccer all agreed is also a manifestation of dominance beginning from playing on playgrounds, on your little schools’ teams, all the way through college then to the city and beyond. At the World Cup level, this dominance is palpable as nations, regions, and continents compete on the world stage. The impact of the culture of soccer has now spilled into the US as immigrants from soccer-loving countries have influenced attitudes towards the sport. Charles Anchang reminded the impact of this as reflected, “Looking at American soccer teams you see so many children like for instance in the US soccer team, we have the son of the President of Liberia, George Weah a former soccer player, whose son George Weah Jr, scored the first goal for the US”.
On attitudes about women’s participation in sports, it was interesting to note that the Women’s league in the US has been stronger over the years than the men’s league. In many countries however that is not particularly the case as noted by some speakers, that, “ one of the issues of women’s soccer and men’s soccer is money, women’s soccer doesn’t doesn’t generate as much money as men’s and that has created inequalities in compensation.”
All also agreed that in countries where women’s rights were more advanced as well as human rights, more women were becoming more independent there’s been a lot of progress in terms of getting females into the sport. But getting the sport fully to the point where it’s entertaining enough for more people to watch is the challenge. Also challenging is the fact that soccer is a very heavy sport in terms of physical fitness, requiring a lot of running and the physiology of women and men may make one gender more accommodating to the activities surrounding it.
Mr.Tango who has been coaching women and men for almost 20 years in the US. shared his experience comparing the various gender attitudes.
“ When I coach young girls the only problem for the girls occurs when they grow up and turn 18 or 19 they start quitting soccer and go different into directions, focusing on their careers, but when younger they are very good. When my team plays I really enjoyed watching my women’s teams because they are very very exciting, very good players, and also very talented.”
In all, as we celebrate the 2022 Soccer World cup, many watch for various reasons, however, what remains clear is the joy that the game brings to families, communities, and nations who all hope for the coveted number 1 spot in a competition that comes around every four years!