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THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
A SPECIAL REPORT BY GRANT WAHL
May 24, 2010
Man United. More than the name of the world's most popular team, it's a description of the state of the planet beginning on June 11. For one month in South Africa, as 32 national teams compete in the World Cup, vast portions of the globe's six billion people will be bound in an all-consuming passion for soccer. At its most basic level—a handful of kids kicking what passes for a ball around whatever open ground they find—the game is a source of joy, sometimes a means of escape. At its pinnacle it defines nations and dissolves differences. In short, this simplest of games unites humankind like nothing else.
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May 24, 2010

The Beautiful Game

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FRENCH POLYNESIA

PARADISE FOUND

High schoolers stage a kickabout in the shadow of Mt. Rotui on Moorea. The island nation, an "overseas collectivity" of France, failed in its bid to stage the 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

NICARAGUA

CLASS STRUGGLE

Taking a break from their schoolwork, students in Léon play in front of a fresco depicting a scene from the Nicaraguan revolution. The Central American country has never played on soccer's biggest stage; its greatest fútbol triumph was a 2--0 victory over Guatemala to qualify for the 2009 Gold Cup.

KENYA

OUR BALL

Though they must get by with makeshift equipment, the boys of Nairobi's Mathare slums exude the same footballing pride as their millionaire idols who'll be kicking it in South Africa next month.

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