The amount of beer consumed during the World Cup is roughly equal to the amount of water in the Indian Ocean. In fact, some of the beer served in Brazil looks and tastes just like the ocean. It’s amazing what you can get people to drink if you put it in a bottle, stick a fancy label on it, and serve it during a soccer game.
Trust me, beer flows during the World Cup like no other sporting event. Look what happened when Spain, the defending world champion, lost to Chile and was eliminated from this year’s tournament. Both countries were immediately crippled with beer shortages. While Spaniards were drowning their sorrow in beer, Chileans were drinking in ecstasy. The beer shortage was so dire that three Chilean men broke into a home in Santiago suspected of having a cache of beer, only to come away with 10 cases of ginger beer.
You may not know this, but FIFA, the governing body of soccer, is an acronym that stands for “Football is for alcohol.”
But you don’t have to sip alcohol during games to love the World Cup. You can also gulp, guzzle or swig it. Here are five other reasons to appreciate the quadrennial tournament:
1. Every team has a chance. Thirty-two teams qualified for the World Cup, and fans of every team, even Japan, Honduras and Bosnia-Herzegovina, believed that their team had a decent chance to win it all. That’s what beer can do for you.
About one-third of the teams had a good chance, a quarter had a slight chance, and the remaining teams had a minuscule chance – about the same chance that U.S. striker Clint Dempsey has of winning the Miss America contest. (You should see him in a bikini.)
2. Passionate fans. If you’ve watched the World Cup games, you’ve seen a lot of jumping and dancing – and that’s just the coaches. The fans are even more animated. It’s a party atmosphere in the stands, where even the 82-year-old grandma and 85-year-old grandpa are dancing like they’re in the latest Bollywood movie.
Mexican fans are among the most passionate in the world. I love watching them celebrate. When the Mexican team is playing, the entire country is glued to the TV, and it’s the only government-sanctioned nap time for members of the U.S. Border Patrol.
3. Great acting. You haven’t seen acting until you’ve watched a World Cup game. The penalty box is the main stage of the theater, but the acting isn’t limited to the stage. Players have been trained in the fine art of taking a dive, as demonstrated in the Greece-Ivory Coast match. The referee awarded a game-winning penalty to Greece after striker Georgios Samaras was knocked to the ground when Ivory Coast’s Giovanni Sio, in a clearly unintentional act, breathed a little too hard on him.
4. Good headings. Few sports, besides chess, require players to use their heads as much as soccer, and the World Cup showcases some of the best tacticians. It’s a marvelous skill, and if you don’t believe me, just go to a grocery store, throw a watermelon in the air and try heading it into your shopping cart – past the produce manager waving his arms, trying to stop you. Trust me, by the fifth melon, your melon will be hurting.
France’s Zinedine Zidane was a master at using his head, whether he was scoring two goals with his head in the 1998 World Cup final or head-butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final.
5. Exciting games. The World Cup is full of exciting games, with at least five goals per game on average whenever Brazil is playing a team from Asia. Most other games average one goal per game, but that’s also part of the appeal: if there was more scoring, fans wouldn’t have time to drink so much beer.
Even Americans, who once believed that soccer was dull and boring, have warmed up to the sport, so much so that when the U.S. team beat Ghana 2-1, almost every bar in America was full of Mexicans. They were still celebrating Mexico’s victory over Cameroon three days earlier.