Month-long World Cup matches put soccer, the most popular sport, on screens everywhere
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The planet's biggest sporting event is under way in South Africa, host to a 32-nation men's soccer championship held every four years. This is more super than the Super Bowl and makes our so-called World Series seem like a local T-ball tournament. Globally, people spend more time watching or playing soccer (called football in most places) than any other sport. The final World Cup match in 2006 drew an estimated 715 million TV viewers.
Soccer is a uniquely democratic team sport. Stars can come from anywhere and be almost any size -- even short or skinny. Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times. Italy, the current champion, has won four titles. The best current player, Lionel Messi of Argentina, is 5 foot, 7 inches tall.
For South Africa, the event that began last Friday and runs through July 11 is a chance "to show the world that we are capable," President Jacob Zuma says. More than 350,000 visitors are expected. The tourism and business impact is partly why the United States is among nations competing to host the 2018 World Cup, following the next series in Brazil in four years. Former President Bill Clinton is honorary chair of the bid committee. "If we get it, there will be an economic stimulus estimated between $400 million to $600 million per host city," he says.
President Obama says: "Everybody is going to be rooting for you. Although sometimes we don't remember here in the United States, this is going to be the biggest world stage there is and you're going to be representing all of us." -- Team USA sendoff at White House [see video]
Host official says: "If we can deliver the World Cup, we will have finally dismissed the idea created by apartheid [racial separation] that there are greater and lesser human beings. We will be ready to take our place in the world." -- Danny Jordan, head of South Africa's organizing committee
U.S. team owner says: "Soccer is the only game played around the world. We can't be that different than anyone else in the world." -- Joe Roth, main owner of the Seattle Sounders
Front Page Talking Points Archive