The World Cup is here and for the next month, soccer junkies, and even non-junkies, will be in for a daily treat.
The immensely popular tournament has been clouded in controversy ever since FIFA, the soccer world governing body, awarded the event to tiny Qatar of the Middle East.
But the controversy most likely will wane once the action gets into full throttle as it did Monday, and soccer fans start talking more about spectacular goals and saves than construction calamities and beer bans.
For sure there was much controversy in awarding the World Cup to Qatar. The tiny nation has little soccer pedigree, had no stadiums, and is in a climate where it can get well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hardly ideal for soccer.
Hundreds of construction workers were killed during the building of the stadiums and critics have claimed that the workers, many of whom were migrants, were basically put into slave labor conditions.
The nation has also raised concerns with its seriously conservative approach to hosting the world. In addition to banning beer at games, visitors are subject to strict rules on clothing and free speech.
A Danish television crew reportedly were threatened to have their camera smashed if they did not stop filming, and an American journalist was detained for wearing a rainbow-striped shirt, which was reportedly referred to as a “political” shirt.
These behaviors are hardly what you would expect from a nation that is hosting an event that is supposed to bring the world together in peace and sports every four years.
But as we’ve said, give it a few days and the soccer will take over the dialogue, at least we hope it will.
The U.S. unfortunately tied its first match 1 to 1 Monday against Wales. After leading for much of the way, the Americans ceded a penalty kick in the 82nd minute and Welsh star Gareth Bale, the main guy we had to concentrate on, knocked it in for the tie.
It could be difficult for the U.S. to qualify for the second round now, with games against powerful England and then against Iran. We should beat Iran, but England will be tough.
But we’ll see.
Aside from the U.S. games, there will be plenty of great soccer to enjoy. The Brazilians, the French, the Germans, the Portugese, Argentina and England are all strong teams that have great followings not just in their countries, but all over the world.
Canada, our wonderful neighbor to the north, is also in the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Sadly, there is no Italy and their joyous supporters, in this World Cup.
There will be games on all day each day in the early going of the tournament, giving fans opportunities to break up their day or relax into the evening watching a match or two.
Hopefully, the camaraderie of soccer fans, the spirit of the holidays and the great action on the pitch will bring people together in peace, and give us something to smile about, which we all could use.