Women’s World Cup–A Kick In L’herbe

Love might be what’s in the air in Paris in the springtime, but soccer is what’s on Parisians’ minds this summer. France is hosting the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup now through July 7th. Even if you aren’t a soccer fan, there’s plenty to keep you entertained with this tournament. The event’s a real kick in the grass–or l’herbe if you speak French.

More into economic news than sports scores? Keep an eye on a big match ahead. The defending champions, the U.S. team, plays the host team, France, on Friday in a quarterfinal match at Parc des Princes in Paris. The face value for tickets to this match runs a reasonable $17 to $65 for world class action on the grass–er, l’herbe. But demand is high for these tickets. What happens when demand exceeds supply? You guessed it. The price for the supply skyrockets. Tickets are now being hawked on Stubhub.com for between $425 and $5,100. Forget grass. You’ll need loads of bread to afford those tickets.

Maybe you are more of a science fan than a soccer fan. The Women’s World Cup is being played under fascinating meteorological conditions. Earlier this week an intense heat wave built across portions of France. More than half of the country (including around Paris) is under an orange alert, the second highest intensity for potentially dangerous weather conditions. Forecasters are predicting France could set a new national heat record of around 113 degrees. The old record, set in 2003, was 111. This record-setting heat wave will provide high temperatures and humidity for the players to endure on the field as well as for the fans in the stands to stand. With a capacity crowd of 47,929 expected at Parc des Princes, thousands of fans will be longing for some fans blowing cool air on them.

Those who enjoy U.S. political news will not be disappointed with the Women’s World Cup. Although he is neither playing in it nor attending it, President Donald Trump is still grabbing headlines related to the tournament. He and the U.S. women’s team co-captain, Megan Rapinoe, are engaging in a war of words. Who? If you aren’t a sports fan, you may not be familiar with Megan Rapinoe’s name. But she sure is easy to spot on the field. She’s the player in the U.S. team uniform with light pink hair. Along with athletic workouts, Rapinoe prepared for the big even by dyeing her blond hair. Maybe she was feeling in the pink about the U.S. team’s chances of winning and wanted to look in the pink as well.

Although news reports haven’t focused on Rapinoe’s hair color, they have brought to President Trump’s attention that the U.S. team’s co-captain has for several years remained silent during the national anthem to protest inequality and injustice. Her silent protest continued when the “Star Spangled Banner” was played before the U.S. team’s opening match against Thailand. Trump did not feel this behavior was respectful and blasted Rapinoe on Twitter. Rapinoe shot back that she wouldn’t go to the “f***ing” White House if the team won the World Cup. Trump retorted Rapinoe should win first before worrying about celebrating at the White House. Anyone else feel like they are following a tennis match here? Don’t both Trump and Rapinoe have something better to do than tweet? Like run the country and prepare for the most anticipated match of the World Cup to date respectively?

Fans of reality TV shows, which always seem to involve squabbling and controversy, haven’t been disappointed with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The match between England and Cameroon didn’t have “Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Boys,” but the losing team’s women exhibited some bad behavior. FIFA will be investigating the match as a result.

In case you missed it, England won the round of 16 match against Cameroon by a score of 3-0. But the real story of the game was the Cameroon players’ actions towards the referee and opposing players. They didn’t want to kick the ball on the grass; they pretty much made clear that they’d like to kick the poor official and their opponents. One Cameroon player was caught on video spitting toward an English player. Really? These are ADULTS playing? The players also showed their disenchantment with some officiating calls by deliberately fouling several players, refusing to kick off for several minutes, and arguing with the ref while huddled around the official. I don’t know if they forgot about trying to hold their breath until they turned blue….

The Women’s World Cup also provides the opportunity to sharpen one’s geographical knowledge. Interestingly, the group from which the U.S. emerged from the knockout round was comprised of four teams, all from a different continent. These teams were the U.S. (North American), Chile (South America), Thailand (Asia), and Sweden (Europe). Of the eight quarterfinalists left from the original field of 24, seven teams are from Europe–England, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The lone non-European team remaining is the U.S.

OK, sure, these are all large countries that (hopefully) most people might be able to pick out on a map. But what about the venues for the soccer matches in France?  Nine different stadiums are to be utilized during the tournament. Raise your hand if you can pick THESE locations out on a map of France: Grenoble, Le Havre, Lyon, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Reims, Rennes, Valenciennes. I may not be able to pick it out exactly on a map, but I do recall from taking four years of French in high school that Nice is on the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera. Sign me up to go there whether there’s a soccer game or not!

For all you material girls (or boys) out there, the World Cup provides a sparkly (and expensive) prize for the winner. To the victor goes a trophy. No, not just any trophy. A big, heavy, costly trophy. Whatever teams is left standing after the final match will be awarded a 19″ tall trophy weighing 10 pounds. Sterling silver and 23-karat yellow and white gold were utilized to make this shiny award. Yes, the Americans can truthfully say that they are going for the gold in this World Cup. Not a medal, but a magnificent trophy.

Only time will tell who will hoist that heavy trophy in the air come July 7th. In the meantime, let’s wring all we can out of the Women’s World Cup. We’ve got economics, weather, politics, geography, boorish behavior, and last but not least, some kick in l’herbe exciting sports play. I’ll be chanting “USA! USA!” as I peruse a map of France from my very affordable seat in front of my television with the AC running come Friday’s match against France. How about you?

JUST WONDER-ing:

Have you watched any of the 2019 Women’s World Cup or at least read about it? If you aren’t a sports fan, do you think you could still enjoy reading about or watching such a big world event? How important is good sportsmanship? Is the playing field the appropriate venue for political protests? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wrapping Our Heads Around World Geography

We Americans like to think we are so smart. Why even tiny tots in this country know how to use a cell phone, change TV channels with  a remote, and play games on an iPad. Nevertheless, Americans are woefully deficient when it comes to knowledge of geography. We probably couldn’t figure out where Carmen Sandiego was on a map even if we were told the city and country where she was located.

My lack of geographical proficiency was brought to my attention back in April when I was in Washington, D.C. playing tourist. On my tourist bucket list was going down Embassy Row to check out all the foreign embassies. While I recognized the names of all the countries and could place them on the correct continent, I realized that I likely couldn’t point some of them out on a map or give pertinent information about them.

Let’s take Malawi, for example. Ding, ding, ding. Of course Malawi is in Africa. I knew that. OK, but what else do I know about Malawi–other than how to spell it? Um, nothing. Trying to rectify my ignorance, I pulled out a trusty geography textbook–not. I took a modern approach and did research about Malawi online. Perhaps one reason that I (and most likely you too) don’t know about Malawi is that it is among the world’s least developed countries; its economy is heavily based on agriculture. But surely you’re familiar with the country’s capital of Lilongwe. OK, OK. I didn’t know that either. Nor did I know off the top of my head that Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa. Hanging my head in shame.

At least if I am geographically ignorant, I am in good company. The younger generation has been documented to be appallingly lacking in general geographic knowledge. In fact, nearly 75% of 8th graders tested below proficient in geography on the 2014 National Assessment Of Education Progress exam. And why should they be proficient? A majority of states today do not require geography courses in middle school or high school. Who needs such classes? I mean we all have a GPS on our cell phone, right? Siri can tell us where a city or country is located if we must know.

Sure we can rely on electronic devices to give us needed geographical information. But our understanding of the world around us and what is happening in it is much deeper if we know where current events are taking place. A truly informed person will have a basic understanding of not only WHAT is going on but WHERE it is occurring.

Let’s look at some news headlines from the past week to see what geographical locations we might need to know about. Anyone know where Fukuoka is and why it is in the news? More basic than that–WHAT is Fukuoka? Well, it’s a city which, before this week, I’d never heard of. I might have guessed it was in Japan, and I’d have been right. To my surprise I learned that Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. It’s located on the island of Kyushu, one of Japan’s largest islands.

Fukuoka was in the news because it was the setting for a meeting of the G-20 finance ministers. These economic bigwigs, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, needed to put their heads together to discuss revisions to trade rules and finances in light of technological change and protectionism. Given clashes between the U.S. and China (which countries we can ALL find on a map or globe) over trade and technology, the finance ministers are concerned about upsets to the global economy. Not sure why Fukuoka in particular was chosen for the meeting venue, although finance and Fukuoka both do begin with the letter “F.”

Not interested in world politics? How about sports? If so, you should know about Reims. Again, this is not a city about which I have ever heard. Reims is located about 85 miles northeast of Paris and is the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-producing region. While I’m fairly sure we’ve all heard about that area, I doubt many of us could mark the spot where it’s located with an X on a map.

Some champagne was likely uncorked in Reims Tuesday when the U.S. opened its defense of the Women’s World Cup title with a win in a match against Thailand. Hurray for the red, white and blue! They blew away their opponent by a wide margin–13-0. This score is the most lopsided victory in World Cup history for either men or women. Shall we say the Thais got reamed? Or maybe Reimsed?

For those interested in planning a trip, recent news stories would give one pause when considering the Dominican Republic as a vacation destination. Perhaps you might want to know where that country is located so you can avoid it. Since last year several American tourists have suddenly fallen ill and died while at resorts in this Caribbean location. Furthermore, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz was the victim of an attempted murder Sunday night outside a popular nightspot in his hometown of Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and largest city.

Looks like this island’s life involves death or brushes with it.Other than that, an informed person should know that the Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola, an island it shares with Haiti. By area, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba.

Let’s face it. The world may seem to be shrinking because we can probably call anyone anywhere in the world on a cell phone, connect with someone in a foreign country via the Internet, and see what’s happening on another continent in real time on CNN. But the seemingly smaller world contains people with large gaps in their geographical knowledge.

Sure, we can’t know everything about every place. But a good start to becoming geographically proficient is to take the time to determine where a place in the news is and some general information about it. And if we really want to go all out, we might consider having our kids taught some geography before they are sent out into the big wide world as adults.

JUST WONDER-ing: Did you take a geography class in high school? Do you think that geography should be a required subject? How geographically proficient do you think you are?