Find a fresh issue of The Blue and White around campus. In this Blue Note, Michael Adame investigates the World Cup’s impact on campus life.
When the United States exited the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament in the first round of the knockout stage, Columbia University economics professor and U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati admitted that the Americans’ crushing defeat at the hands of the Ghanaian team was “a missed opportunity” for all involved.
Gulati might as well have been describing the atmosphere in his home-field of Morningside Heights, where enthusiasm for the U.S. team overflowed from neighborhood bars in the early summer but quickly waned as one game followed another, and another, and another. “I think most people appreciated the World Cup kind of how they appreciate the Olympics: the world comes together to compete, but the games and results aren’t too distracting from everyday life,” said Margaret Robotham, BC ’12.
Undaunted by the apathy of Morningside’s summer bar scene, Robotham began attending pick-up games organized by intramural soccer enthusiast Mustafa Hameed, CC ’11. Hameed’s impromptu football federation constructed goals and field markers from backpacks and garbage cans at 101st and Riverside. Robotham and as many as 60 others played matches on Sunday evenings to avoid heat and, naturally, double-booking against televised Cup matches.
The success of an athletic activity as social function came as a pleasant surprise to Hameed. “How often do Columbians interact with people in Morningside outside restaurants and bars?” he asked. “We got to meet a lot of people and play a fun sport. That was my motivation and why I consider it a success. It’s what the Cup is all about.”
Of course not all Columbians frustrated by the lack of soccer nightlife opted to exercise. Some, like Catherine Chong, CC ’11, chose to explore. “We searched for alternatives nearby, but they just didn’t feel right,” said Chong, who ventured out to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, seeking an authentic South African bar to enjoy the games. Mimosa in hand, she made connections with fellow soccer fans from the neighborhood and overseas. “I realized that day…that communities do not exist as atomized entities but rather as streams that overlap,” she said. “We’re easily able to step into any stream if we just make the effort.” In light of the casual footballers and daring city explorers among Columbia’s summer cohort, the World Cup seems a missed opportunity only for those who missed out.