Let me interrupt the regular flow of pop culture commentary for a quick note on the World Cup. First, briefly, the substance:
I love soccer and I’m really excited about the World Cup. Traditionally I’ve been rooting for Denmark and the Netherlands, but for the last couple of international tournaments, they’ve been joined by Germany, historically an enemy of everything that is good in soccer. Now, Denmark was – deservedly – knocked out at the group stage, while the Netherlands and Germany both made it to the knock-out stage, where they’ll face off against Slovakia and England, respectively. Today’s Germany v. England match-up distills very much of what an identity crisis my sudden infatuation with Germany has become, as it will be a complete emotional reversal from Euro ’96, when I cried my eyes out as the Germans denied the English a place in the final after a penalty shootout. This time I’m cheering wholeheartedly for Germany. It will feel odd for a moment, as it still does, briefly, every time I catch myself yelling die Mannschaft further up the field, but it will be sincere. Their opening game against Australia (4-0) has rivaled only Argentina v. Korean Republic (4-1) and Portugal v. North Korea (7-0) in attacking excellence. If soccer was solely about who had the best team, my favorites would be Argentina. When a combination of personal dedication and general brilliance is taken into account, however, my heart is still with Germany or the Netherlands, although the Dutch have not been playing quite as well as I had hoped this far.
But that’s enough with taken this thing seriously. Soccer is a beautiful game, and exciting in its unpredictable, low-scoring way, and I hope it gains even more fans with this World Cup. But the game itself isn’t the only thing that’s beautiful about it. As I noted in a post two years ago, these tournaments are also a treasure trove for gays. Cute guys abound. It helps if you know where to look – for example, to know that Germany and the Netherlands, as it happens, have two of the best-looking lineups – but you could of course simply be taken by surprise by all the guys you didn’t even know you were looking for. For me, this category now includes Korean goalkeeper Jung-Sung Ryong, Japan’s Keisuke Honda, Italy’s Federico Marchetti, and many others.
Still, there’s a first tier, and it just happens to include some of the world’s best player. Fernando Torres has made several appearances on the Sexiest Males Alive list, and now that he’s back with shorter hair, he’s posed to make a swift return. A return is likely for Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese Adonis and ball-wonder, despite my still resentment toward him for his years at Manchester United. Steven Gerrard, a contender for the top spot on the SMA 20 over 30 edition, and Robin van Persie, belong in this category, too.
Most of the lookers escape such categorization, though. Uruguyan Luis Suarez will be in the absolute top soon, if he isn’t already, and he’s working his way up my list as well. In that, he is joined by Dutchmen Ibrahim Affelai and Klas-Jan Huntelaar, Danes Nicklas Bendtner and Daniel Agger, Brits Glen Johnson and Aaron Lennon, Mexican Giovani Dos Santos, Brazilian Nilmar, Argentinian Sergio Aguero Chilean Mark Gonzalez, Germans Holger Badstuber, Lukas Podolski, to name just a few.
I could go on, but I think I’ve gotten my point. By ignoring the World Cup you won’t just miss out on some of the finest athletic performances this sport has to offer, you’ll miss out on some of the finest it has to offer, period. Now I’ll leave to prepare for today’s games, and leave it for you to find out which of the abovementioned players you’ll still be able to see at later stages of the tournament. You’ve got until June 11.