The Place to Be?

It is always a good bet to be in the host country for a great party. However, I have always wondered how cool it would be to be in some small, underdog country when their boys spring a big upset.

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How awesome would it have been to have been in Cameroon back in 1990 when they beat Argentina and then Colombia? I’ll wager that that would have been an unforgettable night. Or how about watching Senegal stun France in 2002 from some small yet crowded cafe in Dakar? For me, these are the places to be.

It is amazing what sport can do to a nation and it’s people and the World Cup is the biggest, best, and most important of all sporting events. Though it began with Senegal, the place to be in 2002 was in that host nation of South Korea. I am still in awe over the passion with which they celebrated victories over first Poland, then Portugal to advance (I was in the city of Dejean and still cannot comprehend their strength, stamina, and vocal fortitude–they simply went nuts ALL NIGHT). Next it was Italy who the Red Devils sent home. I was in Seoul and witnessed a parade of, I’ll put the number at 200,000, identically dressed (Red “Be the Reds” t-shirts) Koreans as they sang, shot bottle rockets, and marched by for hours. The scene was repeated a few days later when they beat Spain. Those times in South Korea still give me chills and I was grateful to have been in “the place to be.”

So I wonder, where will that place be this year. Certainly, as witnessed last night, anywhere in Brazil will be amazing after each victory and should they win it all, the party will certainly be off the hook. But I am thinking about the small country, the one who should be happy just to be here, the one that will shock someone. Will Chile have a night to remember by beating Spain or Holland? Will the streets of Teheran be full of unbridled joy? Can Cameroon once again thrill their countrymen? Perhaps it will be Honduras, it would be a fun night even in murder capital of the world, San Pedro Sula, should they win a match.

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For as great as the World Cup is, maybe the best thing is does is to bring people together. They may be strangers of various nationalities drinking and dancing on the streets of the host nation. Or they may be fellow countrymen deliriously celebrating an unthinkable feat performed by their boys, in front of the world. What a place to be.

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