the world cup 2006 has officially begun! well, the first match was actually last friday but, for me, it started early this morning…. korea kicked off their followup to their historic 2002 run to the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over tournament first-timers togo.

while i’m not a hardcore football enthusiast (for example, i can’t really name any european club teams beyond man u, arsenal and real madrid), i do enjoy the game. especially when the world cup rolls around! after all, what sport is more global? what tournament offers such twists and turns (trinidad and tobago!)? what soccer might lack in sportscenter-ready highlights, it more than makes up for with its strategy, finesse and brute athleticism. we’re used to seeing james posey flop on a jerry stackhouse drive to the lane – imagine instead running full-speed, while dribbling a soccer ball, and being shaolin soccered across both shins.

and, while the sport does have certain major issues with which to contend (racism, in particular), soccer endures in its ability to bring together different nations. i’ll never forget during the 2002 tournament when i met a gas station attendant in new jersey who was of turkish descent. we talked about the upcoming match between turkey and korea and, as i was leaving, he smiled and said, “we are brothers.” maybe football can offer some small gimmer of hope to bringing the civil war in the ivory coast to an end, as bono suggests via voiceover in certain world cup preview adverts. c’mon, let’s hug it out like korea and togo!