This 9-year-old will make you love the World Cup

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World Cup stickers
Nathaniel’s world cup sticker collection.
Image: Photo/Margot Bouman

This year’s World Cup began play on June 12, 2014. Soccer is my sport. I started liking it in the 2010 World Cup four years ago, and I’ve liked playing and watching soccer ever since. What I like about soccer is how excited everybody gets about it. I love the spirit of it. In my family, we create predictions about who we think will win every game, leading up to who we think will win the World Cup. We started that in 2010, with a pretty simple table that we stuck on the fridge. This year, I’ve taken over and created a spreadsheet with all our predictions for the group stage, including points awarded for the goal differentials. From our group stage predictions I can take us all to the group of 16 stage. So far my dad is winning the contest, but that could all change. I predict a Germany-Argentina final.

Also, I have a sticker album where there is a sticker for every player in the World Cup, save for the reserves. You buy the album and packs of stickers separately. I used to buy my stickers from a Colombian lingerie store a few blocks away from me in Queens. Everybody has to try to collect every single sticker in the book, but that’s a very hard thing to do. This is another expression of the spirit of soccer. A couple of blocks away from where I live, there is an Uruguayan restaurant. In front of that restaurant, crowds of people gather every day who want to trade stickers for their albums. A neighbor and a friend of ours told my dad that they’re out there until 10pm at night. There’s this guy, Luis, who can trade with six people at once! So far, I have completed Croatia and Mexico; mainly from the trading. Also, I have two friends, Lorenzo and Marcello, who I play baseball with. At the end of every game, we trade stickers. Lorenzo and Marcello got their album from their Italian grandparents.

In The New York Times, you can find a list of bars that you can go to, for every team that you are supporting. When I went with my parents to a local Uruguayan bakery to watch the Uruguay-Costa Rica game (Costa Rica won, 3-1! Major upset!), I bought three flags: one Argentinean, one Uruguayan, and one Italian. I will add these flags to my collection. Right now, I have the flag of South Korea in my hand (I have no idea why). Since the 2010 World Cup, I’ve loved and collected flags. I probably know more about flags than anyone I know.

A scene that keeps playing in my head, to me, expresses the spirit of soccer. I’m in a restaurant. There are hundreds of people around me. All eyes are focused on the television screen that lights up the room. The show on is a World Cup match. Bosnia Herzegovina versus France. Bosnia Herzegovina is up 2 nil. Not many people around me are happy, because I’m in a French restaurant. I direct my attention to the screen again. It’s a one-on-one between Senad Lulić of Bosnia Herzegovina and Loïc Rémy of France. Rémy loses Lulić and now he’s bearing down on Azmir Begović. Rémy slips it to the bottom left corner. GOOOOOAAAAAALLLL! The world around me goes crazy. I have to duck so I don’t get beer sprayed on me. And the French aren’t even winning! In my opinion, the World Cup is the greatest sporting event ever.