2014 World Cup in Brazil: Let the Games Begin!

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This week marks the beginning of the 2014 World Cup—an international soccer tournament played every four years on par with that of the Olympic Games. Whether or not you are true fan of soccer (or football, as it is commonly referred to throughout the world,) it’s hard to not get excited for the upcoming festivities.

Soccer is unique as it is a sport that is known, played, and watched just about everywhere on the planet. Given this wide reach, soccer also serves as a mechanism for bringing societies together. As the World Bank highlights, playing soccer helps to build teamwork and teaches young people important life lessons about hard work, dedication, and relying on others. Let’s not forget that by playing a game of pickup soccer with friends, young people are engaged in something other than the violent and harmful realities of the street life.

Every four years, the World Cup highlights this love of the game found across the globe. National pride comes front and center as countries compete against one another, and even those who don’t regularly watch the game become a “soccer fan” for the summer. During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)—soccer’s global governing body—estimated that 3.2 billion tuned in to watch the tournament. That’s half of the world’s population. This year, the audience is expected to be even larger.

The 2014 World Cup officially kicked off on Thursday, June 12th in Brazil. For the next month, soccer teams representing 32 countries—spanning six different continents—will compete in a series of games to determine the world’s best soccer team. Through a competitive selection process, Brazil was chosen to host the 2014 tournament, and has been busy preparing for the past four years. Interested to see the progress Brazil has made? Thanks to Google Earth, you can walk the streets of Brazil just as though you were there in person. Check it out!

Of course, here in the United States soccer hasn’t reached the level of love and obsession as is found in other parts of the world, placing American fans at a slight disadvantage this time of year. That certainly doesn’t stop Pittsburghers from taking part. A number of bars, restaurants, and organizations across the region will be airing this year’s games. You can find a full list here and here. Be sure to check out the games and learn a bit about the world in the process!

Don’t worry, even if you are a novice soccer fan there is still time to learn the ins and outs of professional soccer. Sports Illustrated’s has put together a beginner’s guide to the World Cup found here! For more in-depth coverage of the games, see their Planet Futbol website.

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