YOU can’t appreciate Latin America without appreciating football. Every country, from Mexico in the north to Chile in the south, is obsessed with the sport. Think of the superpowers of the game, Brazil and Argentina, but think also of any corner of this great landmass. And the World Cup is the best time to experience the Latin American love of football (or soccer if you want to call it that). The Honduran government has told employers to give staff time off this month – only to watch their team at the World Cup, of course. In Chile, it’s been easy to follow the fortunes of the national team at the tournament. The streets have been thronging with fans honking their car horns and shouting with joy after Chile’s two victories. And these scenes have been repeated all over Latin America.
In many ways, the football World Cup is Latin American’s moment in the spotlight. Chile and Honduras are just two Latin American countries at this tournament. Of course, Brazil and Argentina are present (and are favourites as usual) but Mexico, Uruguay, Paraguay, are there, too. And of these seven countries, six of them (sorry, Honduras!) are good bets to reach the knockout rounds. All this just shows the strength and passion of football in Latin America. Yes, football is now a truly global sport – what other world championship would link Chile with Switzerland, Paraguay with New Zealand, and Brazil with North Korea? But at the heart of its global success is the passion and fervour which it generates in Latin America.
In fact, the World Cup has grown to the point where it now puts any other sports competition in the shade. Yes, the Olympics are important, but how many people really follow the Olympics as closely as they follow the World Cup? It has become the juggernaut in the world of sports, and the football world cup is the time when this juggernaut rolls over everything. And is a time where the people of Central and South America show their love for the game. And they show just how much they love to gather and celebrate and show their national pride. In Europe the World Cup stops nations too, but does it draw people into public squares to watch games, and onto the streets to celebrate a victory, even in the early round-robin games? I don’t think so.
So while the World Cup is a once-every-four-years festival of football for fans, it’s also a time to appreciate how the people of Latin America truly love this game. So if you’re lucky to be anywhere in Central or South America over the next month, make sure to get in on the party that is the football World Cup.
Check out: How to watch a football match in Chile
For those living in Latin America…
How have you found the experience of living a World Cup in a football-passionate country?