By Maria Isabel Parada
Published: October 4th, 2017
Soccer or fútbol, however you prefer to call it, is a beautiful sport. It’s one that unites nations across the Earth, cities across a country, and people around the globe. Soccer has become a national sport.
The Féderation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) created the World Cup; a tournament that has made the sport very popular. It is the most-watched sports event in the world. During the 2010 World Cup, 3.2 billion people worldwide watched; that is 46.4 percent of the world.
The first World Cup took place in 1930 with Uruguay being the first host and winning team of the tournament. Since then, the event occurs every four years, with the exception of the 1942 and 1946 World Cups, which was cancelled due to World War II.
We can agree that there are a lot of awful things happening in the world: natural disasters, disagreement between political parties, war of beliefs, and other issues within a country. But when your national soccer team plays, it’s a 90-minute vacation where you are out of reality and the country unites in the desire to see its team win. It’s not a coincidence that FIFA has more member countries (211) than the United Nations (193).
The worldwide event is a very exciting one. It shows the patriotism and love of each person for his or her country. People travel overseas to see their national team being represented. Soccer would not be the same without the fans. They bring meaning and excitement to the match, and professional soccer players play for them. As David Luiz, defender for the Brazilian national team, stated after the defeat against Germany, “I just want to bring happiness to these people… I just wanted to make them smile.” The team is made by the fans; players go and come, but the fans always stay.
As time progresses, soccer is growing among nations and breaking records like no other sport. In the United States, its popularity grew when America hosted the 1994 World Cup. Even though soccer was not trendy among the US, they broke the World Cup record attendance with nearly 69,000 people per match.
On Jan. 10, it was announced that by 2026, 48 spots will be available to enter the World Cup. As of now, only 31 countries, plus the host team, go to the tournament. In 2010, South Africa had the honor to be the first African country to host the tournament. FIFA keeps working to expand the sport and the organization by giving more opportunities to small countries to participate in the event.
The World Cup is essentially the final stage of a three-year long qualification season known as the World Cup qualifiers. In this qualification phase, the 210 national teams are divided into six confederations. Each continent has its own confederation.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has four direct spots and the fifth team plays an inter- confederation playoff against the fourth-place team of the Confederation of North. Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) each have three direct slots available.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) has five direct spots, with no playoff. South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) has four directs slots and one inter-confederation playoff against the team from Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). The largest confederation is the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) with 13 available spots to enter the tournament.
Russia will be the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be held from June 14 to July 15. Go and watch the last round of the World Cup qualifiers this coming Oct. 5 and 6 and find out if your national team is making it to Russia in 2018. After all, soccer is the only sport that has the ability to unite the world.