The World Cup of Football — or Is It Soccer? — Offers an Escape From MS

The tournament provides much-needed distraction for a columnist living with MS

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by John Connor |

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In the five years I’ve been tapping away at this multiple sclerosis (MS) column for MS News Today, I’ve so far written during one FIFA World Cup. My oft used trope is that “it’s football, not soccer,” for our many U.S. readers. That is, at least, how every other country in the world sees it. So there.

The U.S. men’s team (the U.S. women’s team is by far the most successful in their competition, with four World Cup titles, including the last two) has not only managed to qualify for this highly prestigious quadrennial tournament, but they’ve also been drawn in the same opening group as England (I’m a Londoner). In fact, on the very day this column is published, we’re playing each other.

The U.S. faced Wales earlier this week (another part of the United Kingdom, folks; imagine a nation whose population is one-third the size of New Jersey’s) and was unlucky to be held to a 1-1 draw. Wales was saved by a footballer in the twilight of his career, Gareth Bale. He’s been one of the world stars of football, but because Wales hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1958, this was his first-ever appearance. He deserved it.

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Seeking Permission to Escape

Hold on, hold on, before my editors start shaking their virtual fists at me, what has this sports report got to do with living with MS? Nothing, and indeed everything. It’s been a need of mine, since becoming an MS patient in 2009, to mentally escape from being disabled. If you’re born disabled, perhaps it’s different. I had 49 years of wild living before transitioning into domestic bliss. I know, I know, what a cliche. At least I’ve experienced both.

Dreams of retirement involving extended travails around Europe in a camper van have been replaced by Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day.” Like his, my alarm goes off at exactly the same time every single morning. (Though, thankfully, not as early as 6 a.m.) I haven’t had his infinite time to learn a language or become an expert ice carver, either. (The latter would be tough with only one working hand. I would, er, have my hand full.) If I’d had his time, I think I’d have become a research neurologist and tackled (yes, we have that in our footie, too) a cure for MS.

Meanwhile, after one of the hot favorites (though, in Qatar, everyone’s hot, except in the intensely air-conditioned areas where it seems you actually might need a jumper), Argentina, got beaten 2-1 by Saudi Arabia, England has suddenly shot up to replace them as second favorites. This is because England demolished Iran 6-2 in their first game.

So the odds, as I write, are stacked against the U.S. But the U.S. and England have only met in the World Cup twice. The first time was in 1950, when the U.S. won 1-0, and the second was in 2010, when the teams tied 1-1. We’d invented football, and the 1950 World Cup was the first championship we’d actually deigned to grace (it started in 1930) with our “greatness.” Us greats didn’t make it out of the group stage.

If the U.S. beats us again today, I vow, in these pages at least, to always refer to footie as soccer.

A loss like that would also screw my endorphins up — which would no doubt have a negative effect on the ol’ MS.

And mentioning MS right at the end of a column purportedly about MS is what is referred to in football (all right, if we lose, soccer) as a late winner.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Gale Langseth Vester avatar

Gale Langseth Vester

Hi Ed,
I’ve also been enjoying watching football in the FIFA World Cup matches!! Is watching footie an escape from MS for me, though? I suppose it could well be, especially in the ways of watching how elegantly the players are passing the ball between each other, even though any such elegance is well behind me now. I got my diagnosis at 38, but I’m now 53. Being a woman who hasn’t watched much footie before now, making this admission seems odd to me. I’m also in a Danish hospital now, where they have all of 8 channels on telly. Ugh. Luckily, though, I’ve one working limb, so I can read my electronic book easily.
Enjoy the rest of the World Cup!!

Gale Langseth Vester avatar

Gale Langseth Vester

…from Gale again:
I forgot to add how much I do enjoy your irreverence in your column here!! Irreverence I do often enough in my daily living, but more often with curse words than not!! Heh heh!!


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