Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium is ready to stage the opening match of the 2010 World Cup between Mexico and the host nation, South Africa. (Armando Franca/AP)
On this morning, we turn once again to the words of soccer's greatest philosopher. Although Soccer in Sun and Shadow hasn't been updated since the 2002 World Cup, Eduardo Galeano's words still resound as the 2010 edition begins:
I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadium I plead: "A pretty move, for the love of God." And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it.
I don't care who wins this World Cup. Sure, I've made picks in our pick'em contest for the hell of it, based on a mix of gut instinct and a little knowledge of who's who. But when the games begin, I will cast aside as many of my cares about results as I can. I will watch to see the spectacle of color, noise, and skill that makes the World Cup the planet's preeminent sporting event.
Many of us are not able to travel the world as Galeano has for so many years. But on this day, we should all put our hands out and plead to whatever authority we believe in for "a pretty move."
Whichever team you're rooting for, let's hope that this World Cup is full of goals and creativity. Let's hope that some team, or some player, captures our collective imagination and takes us for a ride that will end in triumph a month from today.
Maybe it will be Brazil, Spain, Honduras or the hosts South Africa. Maybe it will be Lionel Messi, Robin Van Persie, Didier Drogba or Javier Hernandez.
Maybe it will be someone or some team we hadn't ever thought of. For all we know now, it probably will be.
Or maybe, just maybe, it will be the United States. Maybe Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore will break through and become that transcendent star. Maybe Jose Francisco Torres or Stuart Holden or Herculez Gomez will become a household name.
For the record, I think Brazil will win it all. They have a great mix of attacking skill and defensive spine, and know the conditions in South Africa after winning last year's Confederations Cup. They've also won the last two World Cups that have been played outside Europe: here in the U.S. in 1994 and South Korea/Japan in 2002.
My opinion doesn't matter, though. All that matters is our ability to sit back and enjoy this festival of soccer that will unfold before our eyes over the next four and a half weeks.
As I've mentioned before, throughout the World Cup Philly.com will be traveling around the region in search of fans of each of the nations in the tournament. Our first stop will be Taqueria Veracruzana on Washington Avenue in Bella Vista.
Few fan bases in any sport in America are as passionate as the one that follows Mexico's national soccer team. El Tri regularly sells out the biggest stadiums in this country, and the support is as strong here in Philadelphia as it is anywhere.
Now Mexico has the privilege of contesting the tournament's opening match against the host nation, South Africa. I'll be chatting live during the game, and I hope you'll join me.
My goal is to have a chat for one match each day. It will usually be the 2:30 p.m. kickoff, except for the days when the United States plays at 10 a.m. If I'm able to do more than that, I'll let you know. So stay tuned.
As we count down to kickoff, we turn one more time to Galeano's words:
Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom.
Here's to dreams, everyone.