The World Cup: How Sports Unites Cultures

South Africa, Travel Books & Movies — By on October 30, 2009 at 6:00 am

Today we have a guest post from sports travel guru Robert Tuchman, author of the new book, The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live. He lives in New York City, where he is president of Premiere Corporate, a division of Premiere Global Sports, and a contributing writer for ESPN.com. He’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, and Your World with Neil Cavuto. Robert is also the author of Young Guns, The Fearless Entrepreneurs Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own.
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If the results of the 2009 Confederations Cup soccer tournament this summer are any indication of what the World Cup has in store in 2010, American soccer fans have something to be excited about. Losing by the narrow margin of 3-2 to world power Brazil, the United States team showed its ability to compete with the big boys, and shows promise for a deep run for the FIFA World Cup trophy this summer.

Summer may be a misleading word in this situation, given that, while it will be summer in the US while the World Cup is going on, winter will be in full-effect in South Africa, the host country of the tournament. For those visiting South Africa for the Confederations Cup last “summer”, the ability to see your own breath (at night games, where the low typically reached 40ËšF) was a bit startling at first, but nothing a few extra layers couldn’t help (don’t let this turn you off, because the days are warm in the 60’s and 70’s)!

The weather is the least of one’s worries when visiting a foreign country for the first time. It is a variable outside of human control that can only be dealt with by preparing for it or avoiding it. The culture clash, however, no matter how much you think you’ve prepared for it, will always catch you off-guard.

Right when you get off the plane, train, bus, car, or boat that you take to your destination, you’re almost always immediately greeted by a local in their native tongue; this is your “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment. Perhaps you’ve brushed up on your local lingo and can respond, sometimes comfortably, sometimes…not so much. Regardless, from that moment on, communication with the locals, depending on how much of your language they know, can only become more difficult. One thing that sporting events provide as a benefit in this type of situation is that, although there are people visiting from all over the world (especially at events like the World Cup), you all share a common interest in the event you are there to share. Having a common ground like sports with someone from Japan, Argentina, Switzerland, or Australia, without ever meeting or speaking with them before, can almost always help break down that culture barrier.

Columnist and novelist Fanny Fern once wrote, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, and there is certainly no exception here! Traveling to sporting events around the globe gives many opportunities to try local foods both in and out of sporting venues. Whether its sampling tapas in Spain, tasting beers in Germany, or sitting down for full-course meals like fresh seafood from the coast of South Africa or pasta dishes in Italy where the noodles are pressed right in front of you, each country-and within it each city, town, and village-has their own delicacies that you may only have one opportunity in your lifetime to experience; and you shouldn’t let one pass you by.

Sports give fans moments that they would have never otherwise had, and these are the moments I live for.

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