Here’s our list of etiquette for the clueless or just plain lazy.
Call soccer “football” if you’re American.
This is pretentious.
Root for the U.S.
Our great nation does not dominate at soccer. This should be obvious based solely on the fact that the most memorable soccer movies produced by our country were vehicles for Sylvester Stallone (Victory, 1981) and Rodney Dangerfield (Ladybugs, 1992). We’ll likely advance beyond the first round, but then teams from South America or Europe will promptly trounce us.
Try to drop Afrikaans slang.
(A) You’re not in Cape Town, and (B) using “now-now” to mean “soon” will just make people think you’re Rain Man.
Ask where David Beckham is.
He’s injured an Achilles tendon and won’t be playing, though he’ll likely be mugging (or moping) for the cameras from the sidelines.
Make fun of Kaka.
His real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite; he survived a terrible spine injury (feeling bad yet?); and he was named European Player of the Year in ’07. A man should not be measured by his scatological nickname, although one wonders how his parents allowed this to happen.
Compare the World Cup to the World Series.
They are nothing alike. Putting aside the fact that they’re completely different sports with completely different rules, 32 countries are represented at the 2010 World Cup; the misleadingly named World Series has two (and that’s only if you count Canada-sorry, Blue Jays).
Know your rivalries.
Rooting for Brazil in an Argentine steakhouse is like wearing a Yankees cap at Fenway Park, only more dangerous (knives trump drunken townies in “Green Monstah” T-shirts).
Study the cards.
A yellow card is a caution. A red card expels a player for the remainder of the game. Green Card is a delightful comic romp starring Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell and is not generally used in play (though there’s a first time for everything).
Brush up on your math.
The 32 teams are initially split, based on rankings, into 8 groups of 4 (basic multiplication, makes sense so far). Each group plays a round-robin tournament so that each team plays each other team in its group once (got it?). Winning a game is 3 points, a tie is 1 point, and a loss is 0 points. The top 2 teams from each group advance to the next round, and so on and so forth, until the competition shrinks from 16 teams to 8 to 4 to 2 to the square root of Pi minus .7725, also known as one, which is the winner.
Embrace South Africa’s colorful mascot.
The World Cup mascot, an anthropomorphized leopard with green dreadlocks named Zakumi, makes Mr. Met look like … well, like an asshole. But Zakumi has one weakness: narcolepsy. According to FIFA’s official site, “occasionally … he may suddenly fall asleep on the spot at the most random times!”
Admire the players’ Samson-like manes.
Soccer players are like the Red Sox in 2004, or maybe like Guns N’ Roses circa Appetite for Destruction: all hair, all the time. Even if Spain doesn’t make it to the finals, they win at follicular excellence this year, with Carles Puyol as MVP.
Root for the Ivory Coast.
O.K., so they probably won’t win (if you have money riding on the victor, go with Spain or Brazil), but they could win. Plus, no African team has ever made a World Cup final, and South Africa is hosting this year. And if that doesn’t get you misty-eyed (especially after a few beers), your soul is likely the color of tar.