The Religion of Soccer

Soccer Football - 2018 World Cup Qualifiers - Peru v Colombia - Nacional Stadium, Lima
Soccer Football – 2018 World Cup Qualifiers – Peru v Colombia – Nacional Stadium, Lima, Peru – October 10, 2017. Peru’s Miguel Trauco and Colombia’s James Rodriguez in action. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

The last day of the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 kept the fans of four South American countries—Colombia, Argentina, Peru, and Chile—close to a heart attack. With a calculator in one hand and a Jesus stamp in the other, we Colombians saw the qualifying matches so complicated that we would rather organize 100 monkeys for a picture a lot easier.

The passion soccer generates to its fans in South America is hard to explain. As many American and European media outlets characterized it, Conmebol is one of the most competitive federations in the world, because all of its teams are evenly trained. This fact guarantees that, every four years, the drama will last until the last match.

How else can it be explained that Messi’s Argentina—the sub champion at FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014—was disqualified before its victory against Ecuador last Wednesday? Or how about the fact that the champion of the last two America Cup, Chile, was kicked aside by Peru?

Thanks to Whatsapp I was able to watch the Colombia vs Peru game with my mother through a video-call. All matches were scheduled at the same time to avoid arrangements, and my cable company only broadcast the Argentina vs Ecuador. So, I had to buy the game online. However, the signal was 15 seconds delayed and so my mother’s expressions prepared me to what was coming.

Colombia tied the match and qualified for Russia 2018. After I watched the tears of joy of the Colombian players, I went to bed smiling, and so did my husband. He and my son know well to stay away from me as much as they can when I am watching a Colombian soccer game. My visceral screams, as if I were in labor, horrifies them.

Now, out of all the news about the exhilarating Tuesday soccer night, two articles caught my attention yesterday. The first, published by Sport—a Spanish magazine—implied an accord between Peru and Colombia to keep the tie, which led to Chile’s elimination.

Once again, Colombian success is never praised, but always questioned. They should have reported that Colombia made enough points to qualify and Chile lost shamelessly with Brazil 0-3. Nothing more.

The second piece of news was published by The Guardian about the US defeat by Trinidad and Tobago last Tuesday, which caused them their spot at the next FIFA World Cup. The report quoted Bruce Arenas, head coach of USA Team, and his take about the process a few weeks back. Apparently, he said that he would love to see one of the European teams playing in their field, alluding to the “difficulty” of the Concacaf federation.

The fact that he said that is evidence of the lack of leadership that kicked the US out of Russia 2018. If there is anything as clear as water is that the three direct spots assigned to Concacaf are the easiest of the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup.

I’d like to know what would Arenas say, should he have to face the South American teams? With that attitude, he better hang his cleats and find a new profession.

For the time being, the Cafeteros and José Pékerman can take a break from the critics in the sports media. The ones that won’t be able to take a break for the next eight months, are the Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary and all saints. They will be working overtime to hear the prayers of all Colombians who dream to see out beloved team victorious and reach a higher stage, exceeding our showing in the last World Cup.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Xiomara Spadafora

This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119

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