By happenstance, I ended up watching a number of World Cup games in the city of my birth: Amman, Jordan. I’m not sure if I need to explain this but watching the World Cup in the US, my adopted country, pales in comparison with watching the games in the Middle East, where soccer (or football) is a joyful obsession.
Every minute I spent in Jordan was a reminder that the World Cup was indeed happening and going strong.
Conversations with friends in the past few days revolved mostly around the games’ latest results or involved planning to watch future games.
Every place we went to ran the games live on massive screens, and in many instances, it was hard to converse amid the roars of the spectators, who were mostly cheering for their fellow Arab nation Morroco.
In fact, as I type this, Morroco is playing Croatia, and the result so far is 1:1.
I already have plans to watch the final games with my family. We have already discussed where we will watch it and what kind of food and drinks we plan to get. It will be a memory to savor.
Being here also brought back happy memories of watching the World Cup while coming of age in Jordan; I fondly remember the days when I used to cheer for the likes of Argentina’s Maradona and Italy’s Schillaci with my friends.
I watched in awe when Germany won the world cup in 1990 and when France, led by Zinedine Zidane, won 3–0 over Brazil in 1998. These were joyful days of soccer mania: of picking teams and betting on winners, of cheering, laughing, and going to restaurants and pubs and dancing to Ricky Martin’s Living La Vida Loca.
Living in the suburbs of the US for the past twenty years made me forget about how euphoric this time of the year can be.
Few of my friends in the suburbs discuss the results of the games or plan to watch the games. My US friends’ social media feeds are void of commentaries (and pontifications) about the games, and there is no one selling team flags in the streets.
It’s just another day, another time of the year. The World Cup doesn’t seem to be happening in the suburbs.
Being in Jordan at that time of the year reminded me that the world doesn’t revolve around US affairs and that soccer is a sport that unites us all (except for a few exceptions).
In four years, the games will be held in the US, Canada, and Mexico.
Will watching the World Cup then be different? Will it be as exhilarating as it is in the Middle East?
Only time will tell.