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Is Soccer overhyped? Does it actually contribute anything to society?

The Beautiful Game has great potential to make us better members of our increasingly globalized society. We may come from different backgrounds, have different national origins, as well as different socioeconomic statuses. We have different ethnic, religious, and other identities. Yet when we put on our team’s jersey, we become united. We have a common goal of success as a team, an objective that we can only accomplish together. Soccer, like no other sport in the world, is a social equalizer. Kids that were once stricken by poverty and despair become world-renowned stars. It is therefore also a sport that teaches us to respect the seemingly weakest among us. Given that it is a truly global game, it can also open our eyes to the world.

The many differences between teammates that for at least 90 minutes seem to disappear on the soccer field, help people make friendships and create bonds with those that in many cases are quite different from us. In countries like Australia or the United States, it is especially a sport for the immigrant youth. At the same time, it is gaining more and more popularity with native-born kids as well. That opens the door to a great multicultural experience for all involved. It creates the sort of openness that tends to improve people.

Another way that soccer does that, is that it has historically given economically disadvantaged youngsters a unique opportunity to become world-famous superstars. Players like Pelé or Diego Maradona come to mind as two of the greatest examples. The “King of Soccer” became the only player to date to win three World Cups. Meanwhile, the latter became an icon of Argentina and of the Italian club Napoli, where he came to embody the long-awaited triumph of the unruly South over the Northern elites when he helped them win the Serie A title in 1987 and 1990. Then there was George Weah, the first African winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1995, which made him such an icon in his native Liberia, that he became president of the country in 2018. An example of an active soccer player, who has also been able to improve the lives of the community of people where grew up, is Sadio Mané. The Liverpool legend and current Bayern Munich star has donated money to help build a school and a hospital in his home village of Bambali, Senegal. He and the three others listed above are all examples of players who arguably became better people through soccer. As stated above, it also makes us respect the seemingly weakest among us.

Last but not least, the sport also makes its fans look outward, beyond the borders of their home countries. If for example, they follow the FIFA World Cup, they will in the best-case scenario learn something about the cultures of some other countries involved in the tournament.

Soccer makes us better people by using its best aspects to unite us as a team. But it also unites us as members of a global community, it helps us see our common humanity in each other.

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