I will start off by saying that I am obsessed with the World Cup. OBSESSED. Every four years, nothing matters more than making sure I am able to watch important World Cup matches. I grew up watching the tournament back when most Americans had no clue that it existed. My family emigrated from Mexico to the US many years ago and brought with them a passion for football (or fútbol, as we call it) and the World Cup.
I was fortunate enough to take some time off from my job at the British Consulate in Houston and head down to Brazil for the start of the 2014 World Cup. Needless to say, it was an experience of a lifetime. I met people from around the world who shared in my passion for the game. And thanks to a Brazilian World Cup commercial where Brazilian fans thanked English fans for inventing the sport, I was reminded of the origins of football.
British expats introduced football to numerous Latin American countries, including Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, where the sport has become a religion. Here in the US, the popularity of “soccer” is far from reaching the levels of these countries, but the sport is gaining more momentum with every World Cup. Take the USA vs. Germany match—many Americans actually stopped working to watch the game. This increase in popularity can be attributed to numerous factors, but without a doubt, as the Hispanic population in the US continues to grow, so does the popularity of football.
Football has brought together Brits and Latin Americans, and I can already see it bringing together Brits and Hispanic Americans. The English Premier League is gaining popularity now that it’s broadcasted on NBC Sports, making it easier for me to see Chicharito play for Manchester United. And EPL friendly matches in the US, like the two that Aston Villa is playing in Dallas and Houston next month, expose diverse American audiences to British football.
I only have a couple of weeks to enjoy what’s left of the World Cup. England is out of the tournament (apologies to my British colleagues), but I will still cheer on the USA and Mexico. The good news is as the World Cup ends, the regular EPL season begins in August. And once again all the best players in the world get to play each other. Even US Major League Soccer is a lot more British these days with David Beckham’s planned MLS expansion team in Miami. I am grateful to the Brits not only for inventing and exporting football, but also because British football has set a standard for the rest of the world.