By John Jarvie
I remember watching the World Cup draw in December sitting at Cloggy’s Restaurant during the Antigua charter show. There were only five of us watching, but I was sitting with a French yacht owner, a Dutch yacht builder, an English captain, and an Australian engineer.
For a brief moment, we all bonded on that Caribbean island, so far from our home countries and fellow team enthusiasts. We simultaneously experienced moments of joy, sadness, excitement, and fear while we watched the fate of each team, including the USA, which ended up in the Group of Death along with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana.
Being an American fan of soccer, I typically spend the 47 months in between Cups watching games with the few who can appreciate my overwhelming passion for the beautiful game. I was the guy at Waxy’s, dressed head-to-toe in USA gear, screaming at the television and cheering on the boys.
I say “the boys” because I know many of these players personally. I was fortunate to play with and against many of the players on the 2006, 2010 and 2014 rosters. I was recruited and played college soccer, but my competitive and professional aspirations faded after my fifth ACL surgery at age 21.
While my personal soccer goals became virtually unachievable, the experience only strengthened my passion for the game.
Every national team who fought through the grueling qualifying rounds had earned the right to compete, and their supporters had earned the right to celebrate. While at the World Cup in Germany in 2006, my friends and I realized that soccer and music were the two international languages of love – and we spoke both. At that moment we agreed that we would never miss a World Cup, which led us to South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014
The excitement on the streets is magical during these matches, with fans cheering everywhere and flags waving proudly. You find yourself in an impromptu cheering frenzy when a nation’s supporters organically and spontaneously congregate with drums, horns and dancing. Where there might be wars, hardships or injustice in their home countries, they hug each other here and exchange flags in a gesture of love and prosperity.
I could compare the overwhelming patriotism to the Olympics, but imagine the Olympics for a single sport with 32 teams and 64 matches.
It was a special experience to watch our boys compete on the highest level and advance to the second round this year, while Spain, Italy, England, Portugal, Ghana, and others did not even make it out of bracket. Whether the American fans were sincere or simply jumping on the bandwagon, it was incredible to see the amount of support and passion from the United States. Our country is now at a turning point for international soccer, and as we grow as a futbol nation we need to be sure that our supporters are properly educated about the etiquette and sportsmanship of soccer at the international level.
The majority of our new soccer fans had never been to a live match before, much less a World Cup, so I took on the responsibility of helping to pass on the proper World Cup etiquette to the newbies:
1. Everybody earned the right to be there, players and fans alike. Everybody is representing the same cause, regardless of what color their jersey is
2. Be grateful to the host nation for allowing us into their beautiful country. Thank them for it.
3. Leave every place better than you found it.
4. Show respect to other nations, especially when it’s their time to cheer, support and celebrate. Don’t start a USA chant at a France match.
5. If your team loses a game, you may be upset but sportsmanship and understanding are paramount. This is not about hating the enemy as if it were the Yankees vs. Red Sox. If your team loses, you approach the opposition, give him a hug and say “well done, thank you, and congratulations.”
Everybody has a favorite day of the year, a day you look forward to, budget time and money for, and celebrate. Whether it’s a personal or national holiday, sporting event or an annual trip you take with loved ones, we all have at least one day each year that stands out from the rest.
While I do look forward to spending time with my family at Christmas, I don’t make a big fuss over any holidays – including my own birthday. Anybody who knows me knows that my life revolves around a constant cycle leading up to the best event on the planet. After each agonizing four-year interval, I am rewarded with an entire month of joy and excitement during the World Cup.
Now begins the planning, the budgeting, the anticipation and the countdown for Russia 2018. Will you be there?
John Jarvie is vice president of Oversea Yacht Insurance in Ft. Lauderdale and president of the Young Professionals in Yachting. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments on this essay are welcome at email@example.com.