Sunday, August 23, 2015

Our route to the World Cup in South Africa

I was introduced to soccer in the late 60's at Reed College in Portland.  I grew up a political activist, otherwise very much a nerd.  But our school had a bunch of prep school graduates plus one ringer every year, our British exchange student, so we actually had a reasonably strong soccer team.  Some of my friends played on the team, so I did too.  We regularly beat University of Portland, for example; this was before the days of Clive Charles and their strong soccer program.   Its program, and Portland State's, revolved around their students from the Middle East.   I played a bit of intramural soccer during law school at the University of Chicago, and a bit of pickup soccer with Antioch Law students when I first got to DC.  Then I totally forgot about the sport until my older son started playing Stoddert; as a supposedly experienced adult, I started coaching.  Slowly but surely I got hooked again, playing pickup and watching our two children playing recreational and travel soccer.

When the World Cup came to DC, we got tickets and ended up in the Saudi royal box to watch a game; I picked up the flyer for making a deposit for DC United season tickets, and damned if I didn't get a pair for my birthday that summer.  We ended up as season ticket holders and have been ever since.  Those first few years were the glory years for DC United, which won the championship hree times during the league's first four years; we got into the Screaming Eagles, DC United's first supporters group, and still the largest.  I got to be a real soccer nut.

We got World Cup tickets in the spring 2009 lottery, choosing the "Team Specific Ticket" whereby we would see each of the the United States' three games, then follow the United States (or the winner of its group) into the round of 16, then the quarterfinals.   Suddenly there seemed to be opportunities to see soccer games abroad.  Nancy and I spent a few days in Mexico City in August 2009, where I needed my raincoat on that hot, humid day at the Azteca for protection against flying soda and beer. I got more warmup for the World Cup by visiting Barcelona in the fall of 2009 after a business trip to Paris where I did a talk on IP law; we saw Barca humiliate Real Zaragoza.

So this will be my second World Cup, and only my fifth (through ninth) game watched abroad.  The whole family is going (our older son, Sam, will arrive in South Africa, only after his spring teaching schedule is finished), although Nancy insists she is not going to any games (except our first game, U.S. v. England, which will be before Sam's scheduled arrival).  All of us are pumped.

We have a few other things already planned - a walking safari in the vicinity of Kruger National Park, a couple of overnights in Pilanesberg; we are determined to get to Cape Town regardless of whether our TST-5 takes us there for the quarterfinal round.  But we are also looking forward to contact with this remarkable people and learning more about their struggle for freedom - and later their struggle to come to terms with the past - about which we have read so much.  I am still trying to make some professional contacts (I litigate and lecture on Internet policy, free speech and IP cases).

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