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Niketown on Fifth Avenue

“Not wishing to indulge in hyperbole of course but is this possibly the worst result since 1066?”

Paul Bowler in the Guardian

After Friday’s embarrassing performance  by England I was wary of even thinking about football but it proved to be a good lesson in letting go – despite my heartfelt wishes there was nothing I could do to change the result or the abject performance of my team. And I have been massively cheered up by the fact that we are still  not as bad as the French team.

In stark contrast to England, the USA played with so much passion and determination to came back from 2-0 down that you would think that football was their national game instead of ours.

There have been lots of comments on why  Americans haven’t embraced football and the World Cup but I can see a huge increase in enthusiasm from four years ago.

This time round Americans are aware their team are playing,  my Twitter feed on Friday showed that a lot of Americans were following the game despite being at work, the newspapers all had the shockingly-disallowed winning goal from the US on their front pages and ABC is broadcasting the main game of the day live.

I was able to watch the hugely enjoyable game (if you are not a Cameroon fan) between Cameroon and Denmark on regular TV and with proper commentary – this time round ESPN has hired experienced commentators from Europe who have actually watched a game of football in contrast to the baseball commentators they used in the last World Cup.

Some more evidence that the US is warming up to football :

US embraces beautiful game;

– The Onion writes a post about the World Cup in its own inimitable style: South African Vuvuzela Philharmonic angered by soccer games breaking out during concerts;

– a dating site uses the US vs England game to introduce American women to British men;

(However this demonstrates the vast cultural chasm that still need to be bridged. There won’t be British guys there, only English guys, as the rest of Britain absolutely hates the England football team; the men will be too busy watching the game and getting drunk – and pissed  Brits in a pub are not the most attractive sight.)

Glenn Beck thinks enough people know about the World Cup for him to rant about it : although off course, the reason for his hatred, the global nature of the game, is exactly why I love it.

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Nelson Mandela:

“The 2010 Fifa World Cup is more than just a game: it symbolises the power of football to bring people together from all over the world, regardless of language, the colour of one’s skin, political or religious persuasion.”

I have been counting down the days to the World Cup for the last four years and the opening day has reminded me why I love the tournament so much.

This week I have been visiting friends in Vancouver and due to the time difference the first game was at seven this morning.

I am well-known for not being a morning person but I found myself waking up early on vacation to watch the match and am really glad I did. South Africa scored a spectacular goal in a dream start to the first African tournament. The dream was almost realised as South Africa came close to winning in the 89th minute but even though that didn’t happen it was still great to watch the enthusiasm of the fans.

One of my favourite things about the World Cup is finding yourself cheering for (some) other teams when your own isn’t involved and I found myself shouting for South Africa – luckily my friends were out of the house taking their kids to school so I didn’t embarrass myself too much.

However this won’t be the case tomorrow when England play their first game as I will either go crazy when we win or cry if we lose. To get in the mood for the match this is my favourite England World Cup song – World in Motion by New Order from back in 1990:

And a few other World Cup links:

Nike’s latest World Cup ad;

– although I prefer the Star Wars inspired ad from Adidas;

New Yorker piece on Everton and US goalie Tim Howard and how he believes having Tourette’s Syndrome has helped his game;

National Geographic’s fab article, Mandela’s Children, highlighting the importance of the tournament to South Africa;

– a reminder of the last time England played the US in the World Cup (I am keeping my fingers crossed that history doesn’t repeat itself).

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I am sad that I won’t be in England during the World Cup where everything grinds to a halt during our team’s games and you truly feel you are taking part in a global tournament with billions of other football fans. The US is improving, and it is definitely better than four years ago, but the atmosphere is not the same at all.

However, I can console myself by watching Nike’s new advert for the tournament while I wait for the matches to begin – as a journalist I particularly enjoyed the totally sensationalist English tabloid headlines  :

The Guardian reminisces on some other great football ads including my all-time favourite:

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