There is no bigger event for a soccer fan than the FIFA World Cup. It has been billed as “the greatest single sporting event of the modern world.” Billions of people around the world are captivated by the month-long spectacle each tournament.
Cumberland University women’s soccer coach Gavin McKinney is one of those fans. McKinney, who grew up in Canada and whose parents are from Ireland, has spent the last 16 years living here in Tennessee.
“I coach here; I’m very involved with youth soccer and develop players here.”
His women’s team finished ranked eighth in the nation last season and has made several NAIA tournament appearances.
He said he is rooting for the red, white and blue.
“As a soccer fan, somebody who makes my living coaching the game, there’s no more exciting time than the World Cup,” he said.
McKinney offered praise to the United States national team and their performance in this year’s tournament.
“They’ve done extremely well,” he said of the U.S. squad. “They made it out of the toughest group.”
The 2014 edition of the World Cup has now entered the round of 16, and the U.S. squad will be on the field July 1 as they take on Belgium.
According to the FIFA website, the first tentative competition for the world champion was held in Uruguay in in 1930. Three times in the ‘30s the cup was contested before being put on a 12-year hiatus due to World War II. Since then, there have been 16 tournaments, with seven different countries coming out as victors.
“Today, the FIFA World Cup holds the entire global public under its spell. An accumulated audience of over 37 billion people watched the France 98 tournament, including approximately 1.3 billion for the final alone,” according to FIFA.
McKinney echoed that view.
“More people seem to be getting into this World Cup than I have ever seen before,” said McKinney.
Soccer has become quite popular in Wilson County, as there are many separate leagues where youth can participate. In Mt. Juliet, there are the Mt. Juliet Soccer Association and the Mt. Juliet YMCA Youth League. In Lebanon, children can sign up with the Wilson United Soccer Club.
Perhaps there is a ring of truth in FIFA’s claim to be the greatest single sporting event. As McKinney puts it, “The World Cup finals is one of the most huge sporting events there is.”