School's Out for World Cup Fever
Universities around the globe have swapped out books and exams for noise makers and soccer jerseys, as 2018 FIFA World Cup fever rages.
International universities have converted buildings and classrooms into places where students and locals can gather to support their national team at campus watch parties. This year's tournament in Russia — which began June 14 and ends July 15 — costs $15 billion and is expected to attract more than 3.2 billion viewers worldwide, according to GlobalWebIndex research.
In Nigeria, universities have become a hotbed for World Cup revelry. At Bingham University near the capital of Abuja, hundreds gathered to watch the Nigerian Super Eagles defeat Iceland 2-0. Together, students and locals cheered and sang the country's national anthem following the win.
Meanwhile, at the University of Lagos, the College of Medicine hosted viewing and celebrations after Nigeria's win.
At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, students and locals celebrated Nigeria's win throughout campus, serenading each other from hostel balconies.
"Actually, it is never fun watching soccer alone at home," said 22-year-old Nigerian Sinclair Lyon Jr. "Nigeria is a place with over 300 tribes and we speak over 520 languages. [Soccer] brings unity and oneness amongst us despite our ethnic and tribal differences. With soccer, we speak one language and that is supporting the super Eagles of Nigeria to victory."
At the University of Benin in Nigeria, students flooded the streets in jubilation following Nigeria's win. Four days later, Nigeria was eliminated in a 2-1 loss to Argentina, but if Twitter activity is any indication, students in Nigeria remained infected with World Cup fever.
Break in Uruguay
At Catholic University of Uruguay, university officials announced that "all classes and activities" would be suspended until after tournament's conclusion in mid-July. The university in Montevideo is home to over 10,000 students.
"One of the main missions of the university student is to be attentive to the reality that surrounds us, from a critical, academic spirit, but also immersed in it, vibrating and participating with society as a whole," wrote Vice-Chancellor Álvaro Pacheco to the student body when announcing the break.
"It is evident that sports in general, and especially soccer, is an element that defines us as Uruguayans, and that has the virtue of creating a common sense of unity that is rare in our days."
The Uruguayan national team has advanced into the quarterfinals.
Although the national soccer team for Bangladesh has never qualified for the tournament — they rank 194th in world rankings — World Cup mania rages there. Bangladeshis have thrown their support behind Argentina or Brazil, the top South American teams.
Flags, rallies and parades fill the streets of Bangladesh with the team colors of Argentina and Brazil. But the passion has sometimes turned violent, such as earlier this month, when Argentina and Brazil supporters attacked each other with machetes in the town of Bandar, leaving two critically wounded.
The University of Barisal warned students in May against hoisting foreign flags, citing a national law that "the flag of a Foreign State shall not be flown on any car or building in Bangladesh without the specific permission of the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh."
"As the university is a government organization, we cannot allow such unauthorized activities," university vice chancellor SM Imamul Haque said in an interview with New Age.
During the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup, government officials in the Jessore district appealed to fans to remove Argentinean and Brazilian flags flying from their rooftops. Despite these disagreements, World Cup flags are still flying.
And while many students love soccer, not everyone embraces the party that comes along with the World Cup. Near the University of Moscow, World Cup organizers erected a viewing screen near the university dorms. Although 4,600 students signed a petition to have the screen and noise moved, the Fan Zone remains active.
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