The thrill, heartbreak and excitement of the 2014 FIFA World Cup engulfed TFAS alumni from all corners of the world. From Hong Kong to D.C., and the lucky fans who attended the games in Brazil, the TFAS network showed their patriotism and passion for the international competition, which ended with Germany in the No. 1 spot after a 1-0 win over Argentina.
TFAS Alumnus Emil Ismayilov (ILA 13, AIPES 13) couldn’t be happier with the outcome. He was born in Azerbaijan and grew up playing soccer and cheering for Germany. This year he rooted for them from New York.
“I think Germany had the best team and they deserved to win. Most of the teams are oriented around one player, for example Portugal is about Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina is about Lionel Messi and Brazil is about Neymar,” Ismayilov wrote. “Germany is about all 11 players. They are all amazing soccer players and they are very organized and tactical. The German culture of being organized and accurate is reflected by its soccer team.”
Ismayilov said when he originally moved to the U.S., he stopped following soccer because it is not as popular as in Europe, but this World Cup brought back his fervor to be a fan.
A couple of alumni saw the action up close in Brazil. Alumna Molly Muilenburg (IPJ 07) attended the games as an early honeymoon trip with her fiancé Jonathan Kolodzinski, a soccer fanatic. Muilenburg wrote that her favorite part of attending the games was the camaraderie, especially between the American fans and Brazil’s excitement to host the games.
“One of the best parts of the World Cup experience was bonding with and meeting other people from the USA. When we arrived we helped each other find shuttles and safe taxis,” Muilenburg wrote. “There was this instant trust and understanding.”
Muilenburg and her fiancé attended the Greece v. Japan match. They stayed in Natal, Brazil, which was an American fan hub during the games. Natal is within four miles of the equator, and everyone played sand soccer on the beaches when games weren’t on.
They also watched the USA v. Portugal game at the FIFA Fan Fest with a number of other Americans.
“It was incredible to see how proud and excited we all were. Americans were there waving flags and decorated in full red, white and blue! Even though we were in a different country it made us feel like the world was big and small all at once,” Muilenburg wrote.
Alumnus Billy Blaustein (IIPES 09) saw a different side of the games. He works for Uber, a transportation network company, and helped launch company operations in Rio de Janeiro during the games. He still found time to cheer for his favorite teams, USA, Mexico and Brazil. He attended the USA v. Germany game in Recife. Asked if he would go again, he wrote “Yes and absolutely!”
In the U.S., fans showed more enthusiasm than ever, causing a lot of speculation about the future of the sport stateside. Ismayilov attributed the new fervor to changes taking place in American culture.
“Changing demographics in America are having an impact on changing and increasing the popularity of soccer in America,” Ismayilov wrote. “The World Cup had a high number of views on ESPN and team USA was a trending hashtag on Twitter several times.”
Ismayilov and Muilenburg believe there is a social benefit to increased popularity for soccer in the U.S.
“World Cup is an international event that brings nations together in this globalized world. America, as a champion of globalization, needs to promote soccer domestically and invest more in soccer,” Ismayil wrote.
Muilenburg also emphasized the cultural exchange that takes place at an international sporting event such as World Cup:
“Soccer is not as popular in the U.S. and it is thrilling to think that over time that could change. Other countries take the game very seriously and someone from the Netherlands told us how happy he was to see Americans getting excited about the game,” Muilenburg wrote. “World Cup is an amazing event that brings people from all over together. It puts aside our differences and focuses on one thing: soccer.”