The qualifying process is winding down as to the 2010 World Cup , which will be held in South Africa. It is only the second major international sporting event to be held in the country since the removal of apartheid .
And for the country’s former president, Nelson Mandela. This is something that he and many of the country’s politicians have fought long and hard for , in bringing such a prestigious sporting event to the country. The World Cup , alongside the Summer Olympics are the most eagerly watched and anticipated sporting events in the world. A quadrennial event that’s anticipated and will be watched by in excess of 1 1/2 billion people across the globe , once the event gets under way. And for those qualifying nations it does bring a sense of pride for the players, as well as its citizenry. The event itself, is seen as fostering a sense of competition as well as sportsmanship among the participants. But above all , it’s an extraordinary way of getting athletes together to meet on the field of competition at the international level. Something that’s not often seen with regards to any of the major sports within North America. Granted ,the NHL does have the Stanley Cup and there’s also the international governing body’s very own international competition , with its own version of the World Cup. But bearing that in mind in terms of its importance on the international stage , it pales in comparison to soccer’s World Cup.
The NBA, for its part and MLB , despite their popularity haven’t fully caught the public’s imagination at the international level the way soccer has. But they are slowly getting there. Albeit, that if anything baseball has fallen by the wayside in terms of Olympic recognition. But the World Baseball Classic for all of its pecularities and the ill-conceived notions of MLB and the sport’s international governing body has done. It hasn’t caught the imagination of the fans globally. Especially when based on viewership of the event domestically and on the global level.
The NBA despite its immense popularity globally-goes out of its way to market its stars individually, rather than their teams. And even with the popularity of its stars at the Olympics and Team USA’s winning of the gold medal in Beijing. It primarily came down to more a marketing of the game’s stars, rather than foistering the popularity of the game and further broaden its base and appeal. And you’d be hard pressed to name but a handful of international players on any of the teams that participated in the games other than those we already know playing in the NBA.
As the host nation, South Africa is an automatic qualifier for next year’s event. And while the fans there are eagerly awaiting the event’s kick-off. The team itself has already began its preparations by hosting a pre World Cup tournament , as well several friendlies against international competition. There is expected to be the usual plethora of teams that are hoping to make their presence felt once the competition gets under way. Brazil as expected are the presumptive favorites for the competition. And as a five time winner of the Jules Rimet trophy (World Cup), they are expected to raise it again, for an unprecedented sixth time. Which would be a record amongst World Cup winners.
The aspirations of the US soccer team cannot be understated, as they seek respectability amongst the game’s international elite. Qualifying for the event in South Africa would do a great deal to raise the profile of US soccer , domestically , as well as abroad. And with the growing confidence of many of their younger stars , such as Jozy Altidore , Ricardo Clark and the veteran experience of such players as Tim Howard , Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. It is hoped that the team will, fare well , in the event next year. It has a clear goal , and that’s at least to reach the latter stages of the event. Anything short of that , would be considered a failure .
Courtesy of Yahoo Sports and AP :
Port of Spain-Trinidad and Tobago-(AP)
Just one more win will give the US its sixth straight World Cup berth.
Ricardo Clark scored in the 62nd minute, and the United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 Wednesday night to move into first place in World Cup qualifying.
“It’s huge. It’s huge. It gives us a little bit of space when things are getting tight in our group.” Clark said. ” We knew we had to come out in this game and get a win.”
The United States failed to win its first three road qualifiers this year and played a listless first half. The Americans went ahead when Clint Dempsey played the ball wide to Landon Donovan, who cut the ball back to Clark.
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Those teams that’ve already qualified can now set about looking at what may well lie ahead for them. Inasmuch, as the tournament may well seem a long way off. Many of the players are still within the midst of their respective domestic competitive calendars. And any type of a serious injury could very well place their dreams in jeopardy. Coaches and players asides, the fans globally will be cheering on their teams with a great deal of patriotism. Needless to say the more vocal amongst us will most certainly let our voices be heard.
The event itself begins on the 11th June with the preliminary rounds. And ends with the finals being played on the 11th of July. The 32 participants that will be in the tournament , all have aspirations making it to the finals. But as we all know only two can ever make it there. And as of September 10th , there are eleven known qualifiers for the tournament. In no discerning order they are, South Africa as hosts, Japan, Korea (Rep), Netherlands, Korea DPR, Brazil , Ghana , England , Spain and Paraguay.
As an avid soccer fan , albeit that I now reside in the United States and being English by birth. I , for one am hoping that the best and brightest that the soccer world has to offer can exhibit their profound skills with grace. And show the fans across the globe why it is this is the most beloved of all sports, not just in terms of the passion shown, but also when it comes to its popularity and participants worldwide at every level.
And for the people of South Africa and their government . I wish them well in their endeavor of hosting the event. Those who doubted that they could pull this off. Well they can only but witness the passion , grace and hospitality shown when the country hosted the CONCACAF Federations Tournament earlier this year. Hosted in South Africa , the event proved to be an immense success and as a precursor of things to come next year. The nation of South Africa proved to be courteous , graceful and wonderful hosts to all of the participants. When one considers what the country has undergone under previous regimes , prior to Mandela’s ascent to power as President. The changes during and after his reign makes this more than a welcoming sight for a country on the African continent to be hosting such a prestigious event.