Truly a Worldwide Affair
Copyright © 1998 David Childers. All rights reserved.
Quicker than famed soccer announcer Andres Cantor can belt out his patented "Gooooaaaaal," the 1998 World Cup has created a monumental stir among soccer (or football if you prefer) fans across the globe.
Not surprisingly, that stir has found its way to the Internet. After all, they don't call it the "World" Wide Web for nothing.
Soccer is widely recognized as the most popular sport on the planet, even though it is still in its infant stages as far as growth in the United States is concerned. The World Cup, however, provides the one instance every four years in which the many different leagues and federations spread throughout the global community can share a singular passion for the sport.
Of course, an event this big wouldn't be complete without an "official" Web site: France 98 World Cup. The official site does not disappoint, as up-to-the-minute coverage of the games and news that surrounds the gala affair is only a click away. The site also offers the appropriate respect for the host nation by offering the pages in English or French. There are plenty of eye-catching elements on the page, including "Footix," the official (but very ugly) mascot of the 1998 World Cup.
The standard elements for a tournament Web page are all here: standings, scores and schedules. One interesting feature is a dual counter that keeps track of how many goals have been scored so far in the tournament and how many matches remain before the final. (Yes, I get the feeling the organizers are a little preoccupied by the perceived lack of scoring in the World Cup.)
Aside from the official site, major media outlets have virtually disbanded all other soccer coverage to focus on the World Cup. CBS Sportsline and Soccernet have teamed to create one of the most comprehensive sites anywhere on the Web. In addition to outstanding coverage of the tournament's teams, games and headlines, this site offers one of the more humorous and outstanding features of the bunch: "Complete Hooligan Coverage." The sport's more passionate fans can use this feature to keep track of the many arrests that go hand-in-hand with any major soccer exhibition that includes the European teams.
Two other outstanding sites devoted to the World Cup are offered by Yahoo! and ESPN Sportszone. The Yahoo! coverage allows the Web's illustrious search engine to flex its journalistic muscles in creating a very thorough site that rivals all others in informative value. Another interesting twist that Yahoo! offers is coverage in a wide variety of languages, the most interesting of which has to be Korean.
After more than ten years, ESPN has firmly established itself as the Sports Illustrated of the broadcast medium, offering sports fans unparalleled coverage of the sports world. The company has achieved similar status with its Web site, which boasts a section completely devoted to the World Cup as well.
The information on the ESPN site is first-rate as always, and the page also offers some excellent photos from France and an official World Cup Challenge contest (unfortunately the sign-up period has passed).
Another thing the ESPN site does is remind the surfers of the world one important thing-soccer does not begin and end with the World Cup. The soccer section of Sportszone offers coverage and links to soccer leagues around the world. ESPN provides coverage of professional leagues in the United States, Italy, England, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Scotland, the Netherlands, Brazil and Mexico. The site also provides complete statistical coverage of Europe's three most prestigious championship tournaments-the UEFA Champion's league, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and the UEFA Cup.
Closer to home, the most recognized professional soccer league in the United States-Major League Soccer-also has a spiffy "official" site. The MLS page comes with all the bells and whistles you would find with any professional sports league Web site: chat rooms (provided you have the proper software from Ichat), standings, injury reports, fan polls and multimedia highlights. The page has highlights in AVI and QuickTime format, with current highlights as well as a highlight archive, and the "Goal of the Year" winners from the past three years.
While not affiliated with any league in particular, another outstanding Web source is Sam's Army, a page dedicated to all things associated with American soccer. This fan-engineered site covers American soccer from the youth and high-school levels all the way to the MLS and other professional leagues in the United States. It also has a link to a fantasy soccer league that is based upon (but not endorsed by) the MLS.
Looking for more outstanding coverage of global soccer? There are hundreds of Web sites devoted to the various international professional leagues. One particularly well-constructed page is the "official" home page of the FA Carling Premiership Soccer League in England. This league is the most prestigious in England and features one of the most dominant soccer teams in the world: theManchester United Red Devils. Both of these sites offer a unique look into the home of soccer "hooliganism."
My personal pick for the best name and mascot in the global soccer community goes to the Chivas (goats) of Guadalajara, who play in the largest professional "futbol" league in Mexico. Not only does a team that calls itself the Goats demand respect, but that rabid-looking goat of a mascot is definitely the thing that merchandisers around the world must dream of mass-producing. If you plan on surfing the two team pages, however, be sure to brush up on that high-school Spanish because you won't find any English here other than the "Geocities" trademark. What you will find, however, is a vast amount of information on the history and current state of the Chivas soccer club, and one semi-offensive cartoon whose meaning just does not seem to translate well.
Last, for those soccer fans who can't seem to find enough of their sport on the tube, Soccer TV monitors the many soccer broadcasts on satellite and broadcast networks every day. Here you can find when and where all of the day's contests can be found on television, as well as an excellent array of soccer links to keep you busy until the next World Cup in 2002.
David Childers is a freelance sports and entertainment writer based in Fresno, California. His work has appeared in various newspapers, magazines and Internet sites including America On-Line, CBS Sportsline, Fox Sports and Baseball America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.