By Victor Martinez, 17, Daniel Murphy Catholic HS
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Victor is ready to scream
Photo by Editor Amanda Riddle

June 10 is the start of the biggest soccer tournament in the world. To me and millions of soccer fans, it’s more exciting than the Olympics, more emotional than the Super Bowl. It’s the World Cup.

On opening day, I will wake up at 6:30 or 7 a.m. instead of 10 or 11. I won’t even use my alarm because I’ll be so excited. I’ll prepare the food for the grill and clean my room before my friends come over. My mom will prepare the fondue of chorizo (spicy pork) and Mexican cheese melted to perfection, and the seasoning for the carne asada that we’ll eat later. I’ll have already put my Chivas flag on my wall. Chivas is the team from Guadalajara, Mexico, that my family cheers for. I got the flag when my brother took me to my first soccer game when I was 10. It symbolizes soccer to me.

My friends will come around 9 a.m., with my mom making chilaquiles [chi-lah-kee-lays] for breakfast, a traditional Mexican soup of tomato, hot sauce, eggs and fried tortillas she makes for special occasions.

The surround sound will be at full blast, making sure that when we are 50 years old we won’t be able to hear. Once the game starts, I’ll be screaming at the top of my lungs at the TV, while my friends laugh at me. But hey, you can’t help screaming "Goal!" when your team scores, or yelling "Olé" when a player jukes someone going down the field. I will be cursing at the referee for making a bad call, even though the ref is in Germany and we are in downtown Los Angeles. We’ll listen to the announcer’s voice get louder and faster as the ball approaches the attack zone, then the goal zone, finally when the player shoots and scores, "Gooooooal!" When it’s your team scoring, it’s utter joy to hear that.

A lot of people in America don’t follow soccer, but for my family and a lot of others, soccer is the most important sport. And the month-long World Cup, in which 32 countries compete every four years to be world champion, is the most important tournament. As early as last summer when I visited my family in Guadalajara, I talked to my uncles about which players from Mexico we thought would be picked for the national team.

I grew up loving soccer

Since I was small I would play soccer on the grass with my brother. When I went to Mexico every summer, he would take me to the soccer stadium in Guadalajara, El Estadio Jalisco, to see Chivas play. Seeing my favorite soccer team play live was so much cooler than watching on TV. The fan club "Legion 1908" is at every game with drums, noisemakers and flags. I saw them take out their huge Chivas jersey that covers 20 rows of the stadium. I’m glad I wasn’t under the shirt (my brother says it smells like old dirty socks).

During qualifications last fall and winter, my brother and I watched all the games between Mexico, Caribbean teams and the United States, which make up the CONCACAF group. The most exciting game was when Mexico defeated the United States 2-1.

After the qualifications, my brother and I made two brackets that show what team we think will win each game up until the final. We have the entire brackets filled out, as anyone during March Madness would do. But much more is at stake than a college basketball tournament. A nation’s honor and pride is at stake. Once I was walking around a small town in Mexico and saw people gathered around a little TV in a restaurant watching Mexico play—and this was just a friendly game! During the World Cup, everyone stops and watches the games.

In our hope and dreams, we have Mexico reigning as champions as they did last year in the Under-17 World Cup, where they beat Brazil in the final. But in reality we see Brazil, the current world champion, winning its sixth World Cup title. We wouldn’t mind seeing Brazil take it. The way they play with heart, skill and effortlessly move the ball about the field, just inspires anyone to cheer them on. With their star players Ronaldo, Kaká and Ronaldihno—considered to be the best soccer player in the world right now—they have more than enough manpower to win the World Cup. A few years ago in a Barcelona game, Ronaldihno made an incredible goal. A teammate passed him the ball at midfield, he juked two midfielders, pushed away a defender, then as he passed the last defender, he slid down with the ball and kicked the ball across the goalie into the net.

Another team that looks impressive for the World Cup is Italy. In a preliminary friendly game a few months ago they dominated Germany, which is always a good team, 4-0. Italy is the kind of team that if you let them score early, their defense will not let you score for the rest of the game.

It’s games and teams like these that make soccer the most incredible sport to watch. You can’t have just a star quarterback like Vince Young or an incredible player like Kobe, your entire team has to be playing well. It takes passes, powerful shots, endurance to last 90 minutes, strength and working together as a team.

Is it game time yet?

My brother and I had planned to watch the World Cup together, but then I found out he was going back to Mexico to practice medicine. I was sad because I won’t have someone to tell me the stats before the game (He’s obsessed with stats. He has a 1-inch binder from the last World Cup filled with stats). We’ll chat on the Internet during the game, although I won’t get to hear him screaming (he screams more than I do).   

Every night during the World Cup I’ll watch the games instead of playing video games. My friends will come over for the important games. They will be cheering for different teams—Marcus for Brazil, Adolfo for Mexico, Steve for Korea and Brad for Germany. We’ll trash-talk each other, like saying "Your team sucks." Even though my brother won’t be around, I’m excited to watch the games with my friends. I will remember this World Cup for a long time. Go Mexico! Go Brazil!

Victor recommends checking out these Web sites to get your World Cup fix: 2006 Wikipedia explains how the tournament works and has information on the teams. At the BBC site, you can customize your own team and predict who will win each game. Get updates from the official World Cup site.