Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sporting unity

The World Cup is in full swing. Now, for much of my life I've held a
disdainfully typical American view of soccer. But something got me hooked
this time around.

That “thing” was the Ivory Coast national team. Admittedly, the squad has
already been eliminated from getting out of their group, but they have
looked one of the more impressive teams in the entire tournament. I
probably wouldn't care, or actively support (I’ve even contemplated buying an Ivory Coast Jersey) the small African nation were it not for the circumstances surrounding their qualification. The Ivory Coast is still embroiled in a brutal civil war, with a tenuous cease-fire holding the country together.

You see, upon qualifying for the tournament, the country celebrated for days. The soccer team made clear to President Laurent Gbagbo that national unity was important to them. And the country coalesced around soccer.

Many people argue sports are essentially trivial and matter little in the grand scheme of things. To a point, this criticism may be correct. But for many others, sports teams represent something with which to identify, and allow us to forget about daily trials. Every time I see the World Cup commercial with Ivorians dancing in the streets and waving the national flag, I nearly tear up. (I'm a sap like that). So while sports may be trivial to some, they are truly a matter of life or death for others.

Andrew Swift
Editorial writer

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