By Katia Lopez-Hodoyan
During the World Cup, a game is by no means only a game. It’s a passion, a way of life, an embodiment of patriotism that is rarely met by any other event, be it cultural, political or artistic. No one really knows why this happens, yet there is no denying that every four years it does.
These were the thoughts that ran through my mind while on my way to Germany. A long flight seemed a small obstacle to overcome being that upon arrival, I would be part of a massive movement that in some way seemed bigger than life.
I was excited. Not only was I about to become a die hard soccer fan by default, I was also about to see how a team and a simple game can trigger such a vast international mobilization.
Walking down the streets of Frankfurt, hundreds passed by me, flocking to stores covered by flags from all over the world. Restaurants dare not exclude a large television screen both inside and outside their shops, where fans buy a few beers for a pass to sit down and enjoy the game. Apparently, nature also favors the cup since in a type of surreal setting, the sun still stands well into 11:00pm. And just as the moon hides out, so do people inhibitions.
Yet most striking is that throughout the excitement and chaos that runs through the streets of Germany, in some way, thousands from around the world communicate and understand each other. They speak a language that only surfaces during the world cup. When Germany won against Ecuador, the celebratory band that sang in the center of Berlin, did so in Spanish, yet Germans had no trouble following the lyrics. By that same token, just hours after Ecuador lost, cheers of “Deutschland” resonated among Ecuadorians.
The excitement was big then, but Mexico vs. Portugal would surely be bigger, I thought. My predictions were confirmed when I stepped off the train in the city of Gelsenkirchen. It took me a while to absorb what was going on, as a sea of green shirts filled the station both inside and out. People from all over Mexico, some with only emotional links to the country, were all singing at the top of their lungs. Noise makers were scattered all about and it was hard to see who was in front of me because I could only see hundreds of sombreros.I can only imagine what awaits outside the train station, but before I can even consider that, it’s impossible not to question: What is it about the World Cup that makes people save their money for four years, sell their belongings and venture out to a distant country where the language, culture and currency is foreign? If it’s only a game, why are people on the verge of tears and depression when their country looses?