Don’t let spirit of World Cup spill over

Freedom New Mexico

The FIFA World Cup tournament is about to begin. The quadrennial global championship in the world’s most popular event, which challenges the Olympic Games as the biggest sporting event on the planet, starts today.

Mexico’s national team, the local favorite, takes on host South Africa in the inaugural game. The United States begins play Saturday against a strong English team.

The tournament ends with the championship match on July 11.

Employers could find this year’s South African venue a mixed blessing. The matches during this month-long tournament will be played in the morning and early afternoon, New Mexico time. That means fewer cases of lost productivity because workers stayed up all night watching the matches; however, some workers probably will find ways to actually watch the games during working hours, even as they try to continue doing their jobs.

And there’s no telling what might happen to some work sites when their favorite teams win.

Preparations have been going on for some time for the event, not only among teams and organizers but also among fans.

Unfortunately, that includes the famed hooligans, a lamentable part of soccer. A near riot recently took place in Germany, and South African officials already have deported several Argentineans who reportedly belong to barras bravas, groups of fans known for stirring up trouble. British authorities reportedly held up passports of some 3,200 fans already known for causing violence, to keep them from going to South Africa.

Passions run high among soccer fans. Sadly those passions aren’t limited to the stadiums. And they’re only heightened during the World Cup, where national pride adds to the zeal fans show for their favorite teams.

That’s not always a good thing. Police organizations worldwide report sharp increases in alcohol-related violence during World Cup tournaments. Domestic violence jumps as well; spikes as high as 30 percent have been reported in countries on days their national teams have played, especially on days when those teams have been eliminated from the tournament.

Sports are intended to be healthy, fun ways to pass the time. Violence has no place in any sport, whether on the field, in the stands or behind the television screen. And certainly, devotion to one’s team should not supercede devotion to family, friends and loved ones.

Let us all enjoy the tournament and be free to debate the merits of our favorite team against those of our friends and acquaintances. But let it all be done in the spirit of fun.

Whatever happens to the U.S. and Mexican teams, this tournament will end in a month. Let’s not let our passions for the game, and for our teams, lead to actions that could haunt us long after the last goal has been scored.