|Photo Credit: Prawny from morgueFile.com|
So, I’m not sure if you’ve heard or not (ha!), but there’s some serious futbol goin’ on ‘round here. I have to be honest…until last week; I had never watched a soccer game on TV. I mean, I played a little soccer growing up and I think I was once on a YMCA team called the Comets or Kickers or Hurricanes or something. But, all I basically remember about the game was that I needed to kick a black and white ball toward a white net somewhere on a green field. And, the highlight of the game was definitely the juicy orange wedges that some sweet mom cut up for all of us sweaty kids on the team.
But, I tell you what! I was majorly impressed with what I saw on the TV screen! I mean, to run and run and run is one thing, but to kick the ball while you are running and then, weave in and out of the intense faces running toward you, and finally, somehow attempt to get it past a goalkeeper who can guard the entire goal with one giant leap left or right! Wowsers. Just wow.
Those matches last week left me hungry for some soccer knowledge. Sooooo…I hit the books, well, Wikipedia. (Surely that counts). Here’s what I found out in case you want to know too. The FIFA World Cup is an international association football competition contested by the senior men's national teams of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The championship has been awarded every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it wasn’t held because of World War II.
Per Wikipedia, the tournament involves 32 teams that compete for the title at venues within the host nation(s) over a period of about a month. A qualification phase, which takes place over the preceding three years, is used to determine which teams qualify for the tournament.
The World Cup is the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games. The cumulative audience of all matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup was estimated to be 26.29 billion, with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the final match.
“The Knockout Stage” is the part of the tournament going on now. It’s a single-elimination tournament and begins with the round of 16 (the second round). This is followed by the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, the third-place match (contested by the losing semi-finalists), and the final.
Whew - are ya still with me?!
So, at the end of each World Cup, awards are presented to the players and teams for their accomplishments (in addition to their final team positions in the tournament). There are currently six awards:
1) The Golden, Silver, or Bronze Ball for the best player, second best, and third best, respectively.
2) The Golden Boot (sometimes called the Golden Shoe) for the top goal scorer. Most recently, the Silver Boot and the Bronze Boot have been awarded to the second and third top goal scorers, respectively.
3) The Golden Glove Award for the best goalkeeper, decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group.
4) The Best Young Player Award for the best player aged 21 or younger at the start of the calendar year, decided by the FIFA Technical Study Group.
5) The FIFA Fair Play Trophy for the team with the best record of fair play, according to the points system and criteria established by the FIFA Fair Play Committee.
6) The Most Entertaining Team for the team that has entertained the public the most during the World Cup, determined by a poll of the general public.
And you thought you could get away with just chillin’ out this whole summer without learning anything new! Hee hee!
However, what really captivated my attention were the goals. Since I never watched a soccer game on TV, I had no idea that one single goal would produce so much enthusiasm from the team, the fans, the coaches, and our family sitting on the couch watching the game. I was used to basketball and football scores. NOT the same in futbol.
When that ball made its way down the field as if in a pinball machine rocketing back and forth between players, I realized more and more how incredibly difficult it must be to make a goal. The skill of the players was absolutely incredible. They used their head, nose, knees, chest, feet, and toes just to keep that ball going. We went crazy when the ball finally found a home in the net, even if it was only one single, solitary point for the entire game.
I’m certain that’s how the angels in Heaven react when one lost soul finds their way. Just one. I can just imagine the party in the clouds when just one of us finds our path to Jesus. As Father Bentil reminded us at Mass over the weekend…Jesus wants us, loves us, and needs us….even with our weaknesses, mistakes, and shortcomings. Jesus needs us to share His Gospel with our very lives, as imperfect as we are. I loved the hope in that message.
So, if you too have some newfound futbol fever, check out the excitement on that field next time you see a team score a goal. The joy is hard to measure and the celebratory elation is contagious. When you are watching the merriment, I encourage you to imagine how the angels celebrate when one soul finally finds its way to the Lord. It makes me smile to think about goals and souls. At the end of our own journey through this life, I hope there is an award and I really hope it’s gold. Wouldn’t you love to have a golden ticket through the Pearly Gates? I sure would!
Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!