Cheers rang at the lakeside fields Friday evening as players laced up their cleats and donned their soccer uniforms to begin the 2010 Northwestern International Student Association World Cup.
Organized by the ISA and sponsored by local businesses and campus organizations, the event hosted 342 players representing 32 countries including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Fiji, Haiti, Germany, the United States and many more.
The tournament began with a short opening ceremony. The team captains, each with their country’s flags draped around their shoulders, marched onto the field and gathered in a circle around a group of soccer-playing children from the Organización Latina de Evanston, one of the tournament’s sponsors.
Meixi Ng, the event’s chair and a Singapore native, spoke to an energetic crowd of players and fans about the importance of cultural diversity on campus.
“I think what’s most exciting about this event is that I get to see how amazing Northwestern is and how rich the culture of the campus is, in terms of languages spoken and the people from different countries, all uniting in one event in one beautiful, amazing, spectacular game,” Ng said in her speech. “So let’s give it up for the game of football! Or soccer, as it’s known here.”
Northwestern President Morton Schapiro and Charles Manuel, an official from the South African Consulate of Chicago, were also present.
“Let the games begin!” the two announced together, officially starting the tournament. They held up a replica of the world cup trophy, which will be awarded to the winning team on Saturday night.
“This is a great event; we need more of these kinds of things at Northwestern,” Schapiro said. “It brings everybody together and one of the great things about the great sport of soccer is that everybody loves to play it and it brings the community together in a beautiful way.”
“I feel really good and I feel really happy to be a part of this event,” Manuel said. “For me, this is a mini-United Nations on the sports field.”
According to Ng, the event originally included 24 teams. However, the spots filled up in less than two weeks and as a result, ISA expanded the tournament to 32 teams.
Alvin Tan, a player representing Malaysia, also expressed his excitement to get out on the field.
“I just haven’t played soccer in a long time and I just want to play,” he said. “Go Malaysia! Malaysia Boleh!”
“I’m really excited,” added Chris Lawlor, a junior playing for Switzerland. “I haven’t played soccer since intramurals last year and it’s one of my favorite sports, so I’m excited to do this.”
After the opening ceremonies concluded, the first game began, pitting Madagascar against the Ivory Coast. The teams will continue to play into the night and return on Saturday for more group play and playoffs. The closing ceremony, featuring the Northwestern Drumline, will start at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday before the final game at 9:00 p.m.
“Come to the games!” said Ng. “I think it’ll be really fun. I love this sport and I’m glad to share it.”