The World Cup kicks off this Sunday, and whether you call it soccer or football, enthusiasm is building among fans of the sport in New York. But a cloud of controversy hangs over the event because of human rights concerns in the tournament’s host nation, Qatar.
The World Cup, which is held every four years, is taking place in Qatar this year after FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, selected the country in 2010. This year’s global tournament marks several firsts for FIFA fans.
It’s the first time the World Cup is coming to Qatar. It is usually held in the summer, but for the first time, this year’s tournament was moved to late November to avoid the intense heat in Qatar in June and July. Meanwhile, this year’s schedule interrupts ongoing season games in Europe, which sets new implications for the health of several teams.
This year’s games have also come under intense scrutiny for the treatment of migrant workers. Reports show thousands of workers died building infrastructure for the games, including Khalifa International Stadium, where matches will be played. FIFA is proceeding with it as the stage for the World Cup and choosing not to address the humanitarian concerns in Qatar.
Around New York City, some fans hold on to the highly anticipated event as a piece of their culture, and say they burn with team spirit ahead of the games. But the excitement does not reach others who say the future of organized soccer looks bleak.
We spoke with soccer enthusiasts in the city who shared their thoughts on the World Cup, who they’re rooting for, and their love for the game.
Galo Montesdeoca wants FIFA to put politics and profits aside for the love of the game
Galo Montesdeoca, who was born in Ecuador and now lives in Bushwick, said the World Cup is really about the fans. After all, he said he got to witness how a true fandom operates in Ecuador, back in 2018, when his dad took him to a game as a rite of passage.
“When it comes to [Ecuador] followers, it’s all about aptitude. It’s simply hectic and energetic, and everyone’s so passionate. Beers are being thrown round. It’s simply lovely. And that’s what I beloved about [it], individuals simply getting collectively, and simply forgetting every little thing.”
Forward of the World Cup, Montesdeoca mentioned it’s troublesome being a fan now contemplating the rap sheet FIFA has accrued through the years. “There’s plenty of bizarre, tousled historical past that doesn’t appear to be it’s just for the followers. It appears extra political and cash hungry. I’m simply upset,” he mentioned.
Montesdeoca mentioned the one repair is for FIFA to double again to its drafting board.
“The folks that first created FIFA had a venture to carry a group collectively,” he mentioned. “I assume in the identical sense they’re nonetheless doing that. However I simply know their ideology modified. As an alternative of soccer, it began focusing extra on cash. They began shedding the primary focus. Soccer does carry hope for a rustic, while you win, while you do good, particularly shocking video games, it brings hope to lots of people.”
Ecuador’s nationwide crew will kick off the 2022 occasion, which has Montesdeoca feeling torn. On one hand, he mentioned FIFA’s inaction to humanitarian abuses in Qatar is troublesome for the game, however however, it’s bringing his household collectively over the subsequent month.
“My household is establishing this wonderful mukbang proper now for Sunday morning. We eat ceviche and encebollado, and there’s gonna be plenty of fish cocktails. Everyone from all totally different elements of the nation is flying into my aunt’s home. We’re all going to get collectively simply to observe the primary sport with all of our jerseys on, able to eat good meals and watch Qatar lose.”
He mentioned, “We simply need an escape and soccer is our escape.”
Charlotte Dupre recalled the ‘bleu, blanc, brun’ chant in the 1998 World Cup and its promise of equality
Charlotte Dupre is originally from France, but now lives in Brooklyn. As she prepares to watch and cheer on the French to take the World Cup for the third time, she said, she remembers how traditional practices around soccer casted her to the sidelines.
“Like every kid my age, I wanted to play, so my mom brought me to the soccer team next door. I made the trial pass, but I was the only girl on the team. There were no facilities for girls, so I was separated,” she said.
Dupre played competitively from the age of 8 until her 12th birthday, when the coach said she could no longer be allowed to participate on the team, she said. At first, this soured her relationship with soccer and it took her nearly two decades to put her cleats back on.
In looking back on her experience with the game of soccer, and as more women teams spring into competition across the globe, she said she feels change is necessary.
“It taught me a lesson that helped me later on … that I would have to fight stronger and always be aware that society sees me as something and thinks I can only do certain things, which is not true. Soccer is a sport that is very important for people to learn how to work in teams. And later on when you work you’re gonna have to play and work and do teamwork with everyone,” she said.
And she recalled the 1998 World Cup as a perfect precedent for this change, when a 1978 classic by singer Gloria Gaynor became the team’s unofficial anthem.
“In ‘98 the song was, ‘I Will Survive.’ That was the message because France was not able to win it until [then.] It was just like the glass ceiling. And we broke it in ‘98. It was additionally the primary technology of robust gamers coming from immigrant backgrounds. It was a narrative of a society making peace with its historical past, [and] that track was about overcoming an abusive relationship.” After they chanted for France’s victory, “usually, it’s blue, white and purple,” however that yr they sang “bleu, blanc and brun [blue, white and brown] for the colour of the North African immigrants” to point out unity, Dupre mentioned.
Mickey Voll, a Manhattan resident, said he’s helping unfold a sea of orange over the next month
Originally from the Netherlands, Mickey Voll is a manager at Pele Soccer who moved to the Upper East Side five years ago. He said he began working for the soccer store in Times Square as part of a lifelong dedication to the sport.
“The Dutch culture is all about football. [When] you sum up my life, it’s at all times household, soccer, my metropolis and my beliefs. I imagine in Christ. Apart from that, footy is excessive on that listing,” he mentioned.
This yr marks the primary time the Dutch have certified for the World Cup in eight years, however this time Voll is away from dwelling.
“Usually I might be within the Netherlands. I’d be watching with my household. All the time with household and mates, plenty of beers, plenty of meals,” he mentioned. “My household is within the Netherlands, so it’s gonna be a distinct expertise.”
He mentioned with assist from the Dutch embassy and the Netherlands Membership of New York, his group will come collectively as one to assist the crew in Manhattan, sporting the nationwide colour of orange.
“Everyone within the Netherlands is wearing orange. The orange flags are popping out. So I obtained my orange group right here and people who are coming collectively at Hurley’s Bar in Instances Sq.,” mentioned Voll.
“It’s gonna be plenty of enjoyable, we obtained Dutch meals coming in, like Biba, there’s gonna be Dutch beer. As an alternative of watching with my household, [I’ll] be watching with my fellow nation individuals,” he mentioned.
For anybody looking for data on the Dutch gathering, the small print are here.
Roey Rozen, a comedian living in Bed-Stuy, said the World Cup matches help him connect
Roey Rozen, who was born in Israel, said that even though his home country will not play in the games this year, the World Cup is just enough. For Rozen, it’s more than winning and losing, the international football competition is a language.
“When you’re watching the World Cup, you can go to anybody of any race at work and you’re like, ‘Yo, you watching the World Cup?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh my God, Rodriguez scored the craziest goal,’” Rozen said.
He said he loves how a single word like “goal” can bring cultures together.
“There’s so much emotion and passion behind that word. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Everyone sees what happened. Everyone knows what you’re saying … Behind so few words, it’s just very powerful for connecting with other people,” he said.
In addition to establishing new connections, Rozen said, soccer also strengthens older ones.
“Me and my dad bond over soccer a lot,” he said. “It’s one of the things we talk about the most. It just makes for really good small talk and ways for us to engage with each other on a deeper level. Hopefully me and my dad can catch a few games together.”
Justin Silverman said he is not excited for the World Cup because of all the foul play
Justin Silverman is a member of Sunrise Football Club in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West neighborhood. He said he won’t be glued to the tube over this holiday stretch, and that he’s more thrilled about cutting turkey in the coming days.
“My wife and I are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, so if I see any of the games that day, it’s gonna be very much on the sly. This might be the last World Cup I watch, it’s a pretty filthy business,” he said. “The human cost, the quad sporting, seems like a way to move a bunch of money around, I don’t know why it’s necessary to build new stadiums every time.”
Silverman is originally from California, where he was living when the World Cup was played in Pasadena in 1994. He said a lot has changed since — namely the price point for even being a soccer fan these days.
“When I still lived in Los Angeles, it was still possible to buy a World Cup ticket at face value. And I will probably never go to a World Cup match again unless someone buys me [a ticket],” he mentioned.
Given his general luck with soccer, maybe he has a 50-50 likelihood.
“The final [soccer] sport we performed earlier than the lockdown in March 2020, I used to be standing there with my pal Tay, and the ball got here in, we had a miscommunication. It hit my shin and went into our aim. I scored a aim for the opposite crew,” he mentioned. “So I ran up the opposite finish of the sector, which isn’t one thing I sometimes do. Off a nook kick, the ball got here flying into the air and I simply [pivoted], threw my leg up, and it simply slammed into the again of the web. Everyone regarded on the ball, checked out me and mentioned, ‘What simply occurred?’”
Silverman mentioned he seems to be ahead to creating extra of his personal reminiscences on the sector this winter, as a substitute of supporting soccer’s worldwide stage in Qatar.