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World Cup doesn't runneth over in U.S.

Tully Talk

June 07, 2006|By JEFF TULLY

Fair warning. This column is about the 2006 FIFA World Cup ? you know, soccer.

Now that I've lost 90% of the readers, who are probably engaging in something exciting like perusing the want-ads for garage sales, we can dive headfirst into the world's most popular sporting event.

So, rev up your national spirit because the action on the pitch is likely to be intense, and even if your side ends up with a nil-nil result and you feel sick as a parrot, don't act like hooligan because the sporting blokes are likely to send you over the moon in the next match.

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If you understood any of that, you've got soccer sickness and you are a true devote of Copa Mundial. Either that or those "special" herb brownies are beginning to take effect.

"Are you ready for some football!"

In just three days, teams from around the globe will assemble in Germany for the biggest athletic spectacle to hit the globe every four years. Nationalistic pride will be at stake, legends will be made and billions will be entertained.

The event begins Friday and will conclude July 9.

For those who aren't that familiar with the World Cup, numbers don't lie about the remarkable popularity of the event. In the 2002 tournament, held in South Korea and Japan, the cumulative audience for the entire tournament was estimated to be 28.8 billion, and 1.1 billion watched the championship match in which Brazil defeated Germany, 2-0. The draw, which decided the distribution of teams into groups, has been watched by 300 million viewers.

In England, up to one billion pounds is expected to be placed through British bookmakers throughout the World Cup.

The tournament is likely to provide Japan with economic effects worth 480 billion yen by spurring purchases of flat-panel TVs and other spending. In addition, soccer fans are expected to spend 42.6 billion yen on game-related goods such as uniforms, while they are likely to spend 41.3 billion yen on foods and drinks for consumption while watching matches at home or bars.

The World Cup is expected to generate an extra $8.47 billion for the mobile phone industry worldwide.

It is a global phenomenon in most of the world ? except in America.

However, even with its rabid following, the World Cup has enjoyed only modest interest in the United States. Because of the arrogance of many American sports fans, if it doesn't happen in the good U. S. of A., it doesn't exist.

Even when the event was held on our home soil in 1994 the World Cup was not a huge success.

And the apathy doesn't appear to be changing any time soon. A recent poll of American sports fans showed that just 10% planned to follow the World Cup, and 65% didn't even know the tournament was taking place in Germany.

Even the WNBA has a better following than that. Must be all the good-looking players, or all the dunks and high-percentage shooting.

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