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World Cup -- Martin

07/03/06 12:00AM By Mike Martin
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(HOST) World Cup fever has taken over much of our planet, and commentator Mike Martin has been waching.

(MARTIN) I knew the World Cup had gotten under way the day my buddy, Olaf Verdonk, came to work dressed entirely in orange. He had an orange jersey, an orange scarf, and an orange Norseman's helmet, complete with orange horns and orange Viking braids. And as soon as he saw me, he started singing the "Up with Orange" song. It goes something like, "Oranje bo-ven, oranje bo-ven, ole, ole, ole".

Orange is the color of the Netherlands, and orange is how the Dutch express their love of country. This is the color they wore to cheer on their national soccer team at the World Cup this summer.

This year's World Cup in Germany has definitely been colorful. The Dutch wearing orange of course, the Saudi players wearing the green of Islam, and the English wearing the red and white of Saint George's cross. Some countries even share colors. The Italians' nickname for their team is Azurri, "the Blues", which is kind of confusing because the French also call their guys Les Bleus. Dreaded Argentina also wears blue, but a lighter shade that's set off by snazzy white stripes.

Of course color has sometimes been a problem in soccer. In recent years some hooligans in the stands have made monkey noises at black players on the field. To fight soccer racism, the French player Thierry Henry has created a new antiracism campaign with Nike. So far, with help from soccer's best players, he has sold five million of those rubber message bracelets. Black & white ones, intertwined, to combat racism in soccer.

And this World Cup has been colorful in other ways. The skinny, six foot six, English striker, Peter Crouch has been celebrating on the field with a gangly robot dance his fans just love. The Togo team marked their first goal with a dance too, jerking their heads in unison and strutting along the sidelines. The Saudi players thanked Allah for their goals by kneeling in a corner of the field and praying towards Mecca.

And there have been some colorful David & Goliath stories too. Like when tiny Trinidad & Tobago held the mighty Swedes to a tie. Or when feisty little Ecuador beat the respected Polish team. Or when Ghana, population twenty-one million, beat the Czechs and the Americans to make the finals at their first-ever World Cup.Some people worry that showing the national colors at the World Cup incites nationalism. But I think it usually makes patriotism fun like the German flag underwear that's selling like hotcakes over there right now.

Overall, the World Cup has been a pretty good geography lesson for us Americans. We're used to having the rest of the world watch us, so it's been good for us to watch the rest of the world for a change. And if we've learned something about other countries' colors and customs during the World Cup, it wouldn't be a bad thing. In fact, in today's world, it could only help us.

Mike Martin writes about issues of culture and education and teaches French at Champlain Valley Union High School.
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