The Staff of Meridican shows their love for the beautiful game

Water-Cooler Conversation Heats Up

It’s a universal office truism: The hottest water-cooler topics have long been religion, wages, politics and office politics. Until now.

There’s a new water-cooler topic in town, and it has many of us all fired up: The FIFA World Cup.

Here at Meridican, our team is generally a polite, mild-mannered lot. Just… not at the moment. The World Cup is causing all sorts of fuss and strong opinions (Argentina, no contest), which has as much to do with the sport as it does the countries.

You see, incentive travel is one of the services we offer to our clients. As a result, we are fortunate to be a very well travelled group. Between our team of 26, we’ve been to almost all the countries represented. Each travel program comes with its own cherished memories and feelings of belonging and connection, which are further heightened by our wide-ranging cultural backgrounds. On the other hand, some of us are supporting a certain team not because of our familial roots or experiences in the country, but because it’s a kind of wish fulfillment; cheering for Ecuador, for example, puts me closer to it.

And on that note, let’s hand over the mic to our team members who will tell you who they are rooting for, and why. Read on, and then use the comment section below to share with us which country you want to win (Go Argentina!), and why.

Tracy W – As an American, I have to go with U.S.A. Living in Canada, I usually find myself following and cheering for Canadian hockey teams and Olympians, and quite frankly, it’s causing me to lose my sense of patriotism for my homeland. Since Canada didn’t qualify for the World Cup, I can make a gleeful, full-on, no-strings commitment to Team U.S.A. I’ll be chanting U-S-A! U-S-A! loud and proud, and annoying as many people as possible. Bring it on!

Jennifer – Spain! And not just because they won the World Cup in 2010. There is so much to love about this great country, from the culture to the climate, the wonderful cuisine and, of course, a fabulous soccer team.

Heidi – When it comes to soccer, I have to stick with my roots. My mom, who is German, introduced me to all things German from a young age. Germany not only has a great soccer team, it is also a land of vast beauty, culture and history. Cruising down the Rhine river I saw medieval castles and terraced vineyards perched along the twisting and winding river banks. In gothic villages, we walked to farmers’ markets along paths of cobblestone, and stopped for one of my favourite traditions: kaffee trinken (drinking coffee) and eating cake. Skyscrapers towering over the site of the Berlin wall stand as testament to the country’s past, present and future. Yes, World Cup fever has hit and my temperature reads heisse (hot)! Deutschland Vors!

JocelynWish fulfillment alert! I’m cheering for Japan and Costa Rica, because they are the next two places I want to visit!

Jacqueline –  When I was in Italy during World Cup 1998, I learned pretty quickly how soccer grinds normal life to a halt. Stores closed, restaurants shut doors, I couldn’t even buy groceries! Watching the young and old, the poor and wealthy, men, women and children, all crammed into tiny cafés made me realize: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!” So the next game, I was ready with my Team Italy shirt and my game face. And every World Cup since, I pull out my shirt and cheer, Vai Italia!

Nagesh – Although I’ve never been to Brazil, I’d love to visit the country that birthed one of the greatest footballers of all time, Pelé.

Heather – I know Switzerland well, having cooked up some unique and exciting incentive experiences here. One of my favourite things to do is commune with nature in the off-the-beaten track Emmental and sublime alpine pastures of the Swiss Alps. I’m also a collector of Swiss cowbells (two big honkers, a medium one used by a cow in the Appenzell, and several smaller ones from a centuries-old foundry in the Emmental). When it comes to the World Cup, Switzerland is a ringer!

Rob – Vive la France!  This summer my wife and I will explore Paris and the French countryside, and renew our wedding vows in the same spot my ancestors were married back in the 1600s. Did they play ‘le football’ four hundred years ago? (Good question Rob. Some suggest that a game involving a ball and a field began as far back as the Romans and Greeks in the second century; others claim the sport officially began in the 1600s in England or Scotland. So yes, there’s a good chance your ancestors played “le football.”)

Rebecca – England has my heart. I take all my advice from the Royals. Kat Midds (Kate Middleton, we’re friends so I can call her that), Willy (again, we’re friends so we have nicknames) and Little G all cheer for England so I will cheer for England. Plus, they have the coolest accents. ‘Nuf said.

Murray – Not England. While we have great partners in Britain and we’ve run amazing programs there, I am Scottish, and I just can’t root for the Brits. Sorry.

Sam – It has to be Switzerland. Like the Swiss, I strive to provide the precision and quality in our programs that they do in their watches, and I deliver with the same decadence that is found in their chocolate.

Brett – I will be cheering for Italy for three good reasons. 1. I have been to Italy many times and with each visit, I love it more. 2. It’s a fabulous incentive and meeting destination because of the seemingly endless choice of options and settings (each major city offers a very different experience). 3. And the most important  reason: my wife is Italian. FORZA ITALIA!

ShannanWish fulfillment alert! Greece is a destination that has utterly fascinated me for years, but I have yet to visit.

Anthony – Italy gets my vote. I just returned from a glorious trip through Northern Italy: Venice, Florence and Portofino. “Molto bene… magnifico!”

Tracey M – I was born in Germany and I fell in love with it again while planning a Porsche car rally last spring. Besides, how can you NOT love a country where pretzels and beer are their own food group! Ein Prosit!

Maria – Colombia has attended four World Cups (the last one was in France, 1998). The most we have played is four matches and the most we have won is one. But when Colombia plays we forget our differences for 90 minutes: there is no religion, no colour, no political parties. We laugh, we cry, we sing together. When Colombia plays we are all COLOMBIANS… I wish we played every day.

Joanne – On an incentive travel program to Argentina in 2012 I discovered Malbec wine from Mendoza. My new favourite wine. My new favourite team. Cheers!

Diane – Coming from an Italian family, I’ve always supported Italy. I’m not a huge football fan, but I do enjoy the spirit and energy that the event brings. Plus, it’s been fun to cheer for such a dramatic team. I have however, spent a fair amount of time in Barcelona over the past year and have learned quite a bit about the Barcelona club and its history and cultural significance. I also shared a flight on April 27th this year with the Barcelona team the day after they won their second UEFA Futsal Cup in three years.  They came on board with the trophy and a huge entourage–it was incredibly exciting! Now I am torn between the two teams and risking expulsion from my family, but it will definitely make the tournament a lot more interesting this year.

Alexa – I will be rooting for U.S.A. because I have family in California and Michigan, and there is such a wide variety of interesting cities within the country. Calming trips to Napa Valley, party life in Las Vegas, city lights in New York, history in D.C. So many options, so close, it’s like my second home. Go U.S.A!

Mary – Just like Canada, Argentina is vast and beautiful with many different types of landscapes (like in the north where it looks lunar). Argentina is memorable and an excellent destination for incentive groups. When we held a program there for our clients Atlantic Packaging, I liked the fact that I could give them lots of rich, firsthand information.

Terry – My eyes will be on the Portugal team. Portugal is one of my favourite incentive destinations and with a long history of explorers and discoveries, it has captivated me ever since I first learned about it in Grade 5. Having visited Portugal with several successful incentives, I have a soft spot for the country.

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FOOT NOTES

Are You on the Ball? Test your knowledge with these skill-testing Questions (place your answers in the comment section below).

1. Which team has won the most World Cup FIFA championships (and how many have they won)?

2. Which team has had the most second-place finishes and how many times?

3. Name one team with the fewest goals scored

4. Who was the oldest player to score in the history of the FIFA World Cup?

5. Which country is least likely to win according to Goldman Sach’s number crunchers?

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