Like a cat with nine lives, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mastermind behind hundreds of kidnappings, bombings, and beheadings in Iraq, has narrowly escaped capture or death many times over the past two years. Last Wednesday he ran out of lives as two 500-pound bombs finally did him in. Al-Zarqawi has stirred up bloody strife between his own Sunni Muslims and Iraqi Shiites over the past several months. No man, woman or child was exempt from his wrath, including fellow Muslims. Even Osama Bin Laden considered al-Zarqawi’s actions excessive.
Few in the West will be disappointed with al-Zarqawi’s death. Most Jordanians are happy to have their native born high-school dropout gone, as he took credit for killing 60 souls in coordinated bomb attacks on three Amman hotels in November of 1995. Hatred is a terrible thing and rats like al-Zarqawi represent the worst of the human race. Rest in peace, al-Zarqawi? No. Not on your life. How about burn in hell for eternity, just for starters.
After giving Al-Zarqawi his last bit of publicity, one might ponder, “What is good in the world?” “Is there anything out there that is pure, clean, redeeming and joyful? Is there anything that promotes unity and brings people together in these troubled times?” Yes, thankfully. It is the 2006 FIFA World Cup, now being held in Germany! Thirty-two teams, representing six continents will play in this month-long tournament that has most of the world re-adjusting their schedules to watch their favorite teams.
Soccer or football, as it is known in the rest of the world, is undoubtedly the planet’s most popular sport. I doubt that soccer will ever catch on here in the U.S. as it has in most other countries. Even if the U.S. won the world cup this year (very doubtful) the publicity would last about a week, after which it would be eclipsed by NFL training camp news or the final drive toward baseball’s world series. Our sports traditions in the U.S. are so established and so deep that it will take at least another generation for soccer to establish itself as a major sport, even on par with ice hockey. Of all the professional sports in the U.S. the NFL is undoubtedly the most popular. Last year eight NFL games had higher viewer numbers than the last episode of American Idol, which far eclipsed all other TV shows.
Never mind the U.S. It is more important that we focus positively on the World Cup. Perhaps even more than the Olympics, the World Cup brings citizens of the planet closer together for a singular purpose than any other event. Asians play Europeans, who play Africans, who play Hispanics, who play Arabs. Imagine, citizens of six continents (only Antarctica isn’t represented) glued to their television sets watching not just the team of their country, but games played by other nations.
Last week I talked to a friend of mine who emigrated here from Mexico about twenty years ago. He is a consummate career person who is working all the time and seldom takes a vacation. I called him during the middle of the day and he told me that he was heading home to watch a soccer game. Knowing he was from Mexico I asked him if he was watching the Mexican team play. “No!” he said. “I’m going home to watch Germany play Costa Rica!” “Wow”, I thought. This guy just likes soccer, period. He doesn’t care who’s playing! Yeah, well, wake up Don Salyards from the USA. The whole world is watching soccer for the next month, whether you are or not. Sharing their common respect for sport and humanity, in the next month many good times will be shared by the citizens of this earth, which will do far more to unite them than to divide them. That’s a good thing. Long live soccer, the most popular of world sports!