World Cup brings diversity to UA
Students gathered in the Student Union to show their team spirit.
July 22, 2014
Filed under Sports
The theatre in the Student Union was packed on June 12th as the Iranian and Nigerian national teams faced off in the World Cup.
The University of Akron is a melting pot of students with different nationalities and backgrounds. The university is attended by distinguishable populations of people of Iranian and Nigerian descent, and both sat down to watch the game together.
Nima Vafai, a graduate student in the Department of Economics said, “There are wars around the world. I think that this kind of event, sports, can reduce the political competition between countries. [We can] learn each other’s cultures and similarities so we can respect each other.”
Admittedly, Vafai is not a huge soccer fan, but he has an interest in the World Cup due to the national pride associated with it. He said it is a time when the Iranian community comes together on campus, and enjoys rooting for their home country with others of his nationality.
“Soccer is a huge part of Iranian culture for younger generations,” Vafai said. As the game wore on, applause and claps resonated throughout the theatre. Students sported jerseys and even wore face paint to show their spirit for the soccer match. Friends conversed and popcorn was shared.
Nina Johnson-Kanu, a graduate student in the Department of Economics said, “It’s my favorite sport because of how entertaining it is.”
Amidst the World Cup celebrations, the extremist group Boko Haram vilified the nation of Nigeria with deadly attacks on civilians. Boko Haram, an extremist group with links to Al-Qaeda, has been identified as the culprit for the missing Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted on the night of April 14th.
Perturbed by the bloodshed in her home country, Johnson-Kanu said, “I wish they could actually do something, but unless something really terrible happens nothing with get done. Something really terrible has already happened and I know nothing will get done.“
Days later, on June 26, Ghana was defeated by Portugal 2-1. Alex Nyarko, a Polymer Science graduate student from Ghana, said, “We were expecting to qualify. We’re really disappointed.”
Consequently, Ghana’s loss was the saving grace of the United States advancement in the World Cup from the Group Stage, an early round in The World Cup. That day, the United States faced Germany and lost 1-0, but the team was not eliminated due to the point differential in Ghana’s loss. Even non-native students rooted for the United States in its match against Germany.
Mostafa Razavi, an Iranian student who is seeking his Ph.D. in chemical engineering, rooted for his home country originally, but after their elimination by Bosnia he began rooting for the United States. He was pleased with the outcome.
“I feel great. We got lucky. Germany is a phenomenal team,” Razavi said. Razavi was watching the Germany-Ghana match with friends Sal Ibrahim and Ayako Diaz in the Commuter Lounge of the Student Union.
“I really do feel like this brought the campus together. You make a lot of new friends from different walks of life,” Diaz said. Ayako Diaz is a senior in the College of Business Administration.
The United States may have been eliminated by Belgium on July 1, but students were still highly supportive of UA alumnus Deandre Yedlin. Yedlin, a former Zip, played with the men’s soccer team for two seasons before going pro.
Head Coach Jared Embick praised Yedlin both as a player and a former student at UA.
“He’s just a great kid. We saw a lot of his talent and potential here,” Embick said. He described Yedlin as humble and coachable. He was thrilled that in the two seasons that Yedlin attended UA, they could help him reach that level of professional soccer.
“His greatest strength was his athleticism and attacking qualities,” Embick said. Overall, Embick was pleased with Yedlin’s play in the World Cup. Embick was surprised that Yedlin was selected for the Men’s National Soccer Team, and was proud of Yedlin’s maturity on the field.
“I thought he showed some composure from a young player starting in the World Cup. I thought he was excellent,” Embick said.
There have also been rumors of other former Zips becoming prospects for the 2018 Men’s National Soccer Team. Embick listed alumni Wil Trapp and Perry Kitchen as potential starters and said that up to five Akron alumni could make the Men’s National team in 2018.
“All of those guys could potentially start,” Embick said. Embick is in his second year as Head Coach of the men’s soccer team at UA, but is in his eighth year overall as a part of the soccer program. Embick attended a plethora of soccer matches in Brazil during the opening rounds of the World Cup.
“When you see it overseas you understand what it means. When a goal is scored it’s more than just a game,” Embick said. He hopes that Yedlin’s success will facilitate more success in the Zip’s soccer program.
The captivating conclusion of the 2014 World Cup was filled with hype as Germany, Argentina, Brazil and The Netherlands stood as the final competitors. Germany’s dominant performance in their 7-1 win against Brazil foreshadowed their epic win against Argentina. Germany outscored Argentina 1-0 to win the nation’s fourth World Cup title.