Even though the NFL draft drama is over, football buzz persists. There is no denying it; Austin is a football town in a football state in football-focused America. But outside of the good old USA, “football” has an entirely different meaning. To the rest of the world, we’re talking soccer. And in this month and this year, soccer is on the international center stage as the FIFA World Cup is held in Brazil. The World Cup is among the world’s most widely viewed sports events. In 2006, an estimated 700 million people were glued to their TVs during the final held in Germany; in 2010, some 2 billion people—29 percent of the global population—watched the South African games. And for many of us in the USA, soccer is a big deal. Americans sat down to watch the US Men’s National Team take on Ghana in the round-of-16 in South Africa to the tune of 24 million people. A total of 94.5 million Americas watched some part of the tournament, the single largest rise in viewers—20 percent—of any other measured audience. In addition, we—or our kids—have played soccer in school, in clubs, and through rec leagues.
You may remember that my April issue Publisher’s Letter was dedicated to a young third grade student at my alma mater who had invited me to visit him at my 50th high school reunion. I did just that, and I also caught up with classmates I hadn’t seen in five decades. Among these gentlemen was a significant number of my varsity soccer teammates. The memories of that last season together are among my most cherished. The most popular recollection was the final championship game against our arch nemesis, involving a brutal battle to a scoreless tie. For us defensive players, neutralizing that powerhouse was the high point in our soccer careers. For all of us, that game represented the closeness that we had developed as a team and the friendships made possible by our mutual love of soccer.
The experience of having competed on soccer teams from junior high school through college left an indelible impression on me. I gained a special appreciation for the game and the enormous skills and endurance that are required. Even if you have never played soccer or dribbled a ball downfield, you will appreciate that the World Cup is in a league of its own. You will see skills that are almost inconceivable as well as spirit and passion—among players and fans alike—that is more in line with college fervor than a professional competition.
World Cup soccer has it all: non-stop action with almost no time outs, drama at every kick, traps and headers from some of the greatest athletes in sports, and all wrapped up with a spirit of national pride akin to the Olympic games. To peak your interest, check out our coverage of the World Cup in this issue. I highly recommend that you join the rest of the world watching some of the greatest football on the planet. You will not be disappointed.
Keep Austin Fit,
Lou Earle, Publisher, CEO