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Nidhi Taparia Rathi
Four years ago, US-based Bill Davis watched the World Cup in the solitary company of his son. This time around, though, Davis is having a lot more fun. He has found a way to share his passion, punditry and excitement with 10,000 people around the world.
Davis is blogging the World Cup. Everyday, he updates his Weblog with a round up of the day's matches and previews of matches to come. He embellishes his own interpretation of the action with links to articles in the Soccer press. His simple, no-nonsense commentary is drawing tons of email and visitors, even from India. "Suddenly I've struck up an almost daily correspondence with someone in Venezuela, and have heard from people in the UK, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Argentina, India, the Netherlands, Ireland… That is fascinating!" Besides winning him friends, his running diary has earned him the distinction of being 'Blog of Note' on Blogger, a publishing tool for weblogs.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, two Britons are lending an Olympian touch to the World Cup, in an attempt to salvage the sullied image of England's soccer fans. Phil Wake and Christian Wach have been kicking a ball from England -- soccer's birthplace - all the way to Japan and South Korea, an inspiration drawn from the journey of the Olympic torch. The two are travelling mostly by train, boat and bus. Along the way, they are filming meetings with fans and players and posting daily updates of the trip on their blog, 'Football's Leaving Home'.
While Wake and Wach have a specific goal, many just get online to shoot the breeze and kick up some fun. "Since the Web allows a two-way communication unlike television, more people feel a part of the event," says Nick O'Neil. Thanks to his World Cup Blog, Nick adds as an aside, he can contact the president of a soccer federation without having to apply for meeting.
"One of the best things about watching football is discussing the game…'' feels Chris Heidrich, who runs World Cup Blog, along with O'Neil, "…who played well, who didn't, which team looks the best... Everyone has an opinion. We have people from all over the world sharing their views on our blog. It's fun to ramble on about football."
They started their blog on May 31, the first day of the WorldCup, and their flip take on the action in the Far East is clocking a few thousand visitors a day. "We don't take ourselves or the game too seriously and I think people respond to that more so than if we were spouting our opinions like they were the only truth.''
While their feature on worst hairdos was an instant hit, Heidrich's favourite is a post about Argentina's loss to England. "Some very passionate arguments going back and forth among supporters. We generally tend to stay out of the arguments and there aren't really that many. We'll have our say and if people agree or disagree, that's up to them. Most arguments start when someone defends a particular team, but we don't support any one team."
What makes them different from media-run blogs like The Guardian's World Cup Weblog, Time.com's World Cup Weblog and El Weblog del Mundial (in Spanish) from Argentina is that their commentary is intensely personal. Explains Chris, "What our visitors enjoy is that we're not trying to cover every single piece of action or story that comes out of Japan and Korea. We just post our thoughts and opinions as we go along. We also look on the lighter side. The hairdos and personalities are as much a part of football as the game itself and we enjoy that aspect."
But putting their views online has also changed the way they perceive the beautiful game. It has made them even more passionate and knowledgeable. Nick now remembers the names of coaches and football players of all teams. Davis, on the other hand, admits that he has become far more critical about his own football views. "I think it has helped fans across countries, caste and creed to bond online no matter which team they support," he says.
Even regular bloggers are happy to be waylaid by FIFA 2002. Thirtythree-year-old Caitlin Mairri's blog reflects her current passion: "Over the next month, Simply Stated will be celebrating the FIFA 2002 World Cup with match commentary, personal reflections and all the latest news from the world's greatest sporting event. Normal service will resume on 1 July." As David Burrows observes: "Seems the World Cup has slowed down the world, not many updates on my usual blog rounds."
Cashing in on the football fever is BlogFootball, a UK-based Manila hosting service, which exhorts football fans to do something different. "Too long have ordinary football supporters been talked at. Now, it's our turn to start talking." BlogFootball aims to create a community of soccer fans with their own Web sites. "This will be the place for football views on the Internet. A thousand football Web sites. A thousand points of view."
This, the fans point out, is just the beginning. Chris and Nick plan to be in Germany, 2006, blogging the next World Cup live.
-- FIFA 2002 - Best of the Web: A compilation of the best soccer links online
-- Between the Posts: Fans discuss the World Cup