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Rocky View Publishing reporter soaking in his sixth World Cup event

By: Matt Durnan

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jun 19, 2014 10:23 am

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Iíve always made a conscious effort when Iím putting together my opinion pieces to keep a somewhat logical rotation of themes so as to avoid being repetitive, while also sticking to what I know.

It usually holds a pattern of: complaining about something specific, being introspective and self-analytical, a recent experience recounted in detail, and sports.

Looking back at my last few columns it appears as though I havenít touched the sports topic since late March when I was craving for golf season to get underway.

So in keeping with my rotation, itís time to touch on sports, and wouldnít you know it, it falls right in line with an event that also follows a cyclical nature, the World Cup.

Yes Iím seasoned enough with the sport that I no longer feel it necessary to refer to it as the FIFA World Cup, as any longtime soccer fan will tell you there is only one tournament that should be thought of when those two words are uttered.

I may be a bit of a black sheep among Canadians in that the first organized sport I played was in fact soccer, not hockey, and it was the first sport that I ever really excelled at.

This isnít to say that I didnít have my successes in other sports, but soccer was always the one where I had total confidence in my ability and a complete understanding of the game.

Some of my earliest memories come from being on the soccer field and though I was but five or six years old, I can still clearly recall having a different mindset than it seemed most of my teammates did.

While the other players were happy to chase the ball like a pack of hunting dogs on a fox hunt, I can remember thinking to myself, ďif I just hover around the outside of them, when the ball pops out Iíll be free to run off and score.Ē And score I did, quite often actually.

And so was born a soccer fanatic. My first taste of the sport at a professional level was watching Soccer Saturday on TSN with my dad before heading off to my indoor soccer games.

World Cup 1994 in the United States, however, was the real awakening for me as a fan, as I was just nine years old at the time and had been brought up believing that hockey was the biggest thing on the planet.

The spectacle of that event had me hooked. The high level of play was one thing, but learning the names and faces of all of these superstar athletes that I had never heard of and who were revered in countries thousands of miles away was a brand new world to me.

I had become attached to names like Gilmour, Clark, Potvin, Gretzky and Lemieux, but now I had a whole new group of athletes to follow.

Names like Romario, Roberto Baggio, Dennis Bergkamp, Jurgen Klinsmann and Gabriel Batistuta all became part of my vernacular.

For me, this has always been one of the most alluring things about the World Cup; the chance to not only see some of the greatest players in the world, but to learn about new ones who play half a world away.

In a way, I count myself fortunate that I really get a chance to soak up the tournament in its entirety, thanks to having somewhat of a lack of a country to support.

Iím Canadian by birth and our soccer program isnít exactly world class. My momís side of the family is Ukrainian and I supported them whole-heartedly at World Cup 2006 in Germany where they made a somewhat unexpected quarterfinals appearance where they were defeated by the eventual champions from Italy.

Dadís side of the family is mostly a mixed bag of Irish and Scottish, the former hasnít been in a World Cup since 2002, the latter since 1998 so itís been some time since Iíve had ties to any team competing for the most coveted trophy in all of soccer.

It does have its upside though, when you donít have a horse in the race, it affords a better view of the entire thing and Iím looking forward to taking it all in for the next 24 days until a champion is crowned on July 13.


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