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Football vs. Soccer—Which is the World’s Favorite?

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With the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa just around the corner, U.S. media and fans will have a flare-up in interest in world sports. Our minds open to the fact that sports aren’t just strenuous things done around leather balls and across finish lines, but also with paddles, on blades, in water, and on trampolines. Our brains reset from caring about athletes with names like LeBron and Brett, and we start to root for people named Oksana and Usain.

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This expansion in awareness from domestic to global, and the common ground sports can give to vastly different cultures is the primary obsession of John and Lisa Siner, who are traveling the world with their video camera in tow for their project Why Sport Matters.

The itinerary of the duo (he just spent six years as a manager for the 2008 International Olympic Committee, and she is a freelance journalist and photographer) includes Africa, South America, Australia, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe and runs through October 2010.

Along the way they’ll be interviewing athletes, coaches, and organizers and asking questions, such as, Why do Kenya and Ethiopia have the top long-distance runners? Why is American football the number one sport in the U.S. but not of interest internationally? And why is soccer considered a universal language?

Bookmark it for a little armchair (or laptop) traveling with a sporty twist.

Laura Teusink is Travel + Leisure’s associate managing editor.

Caption 1 (top): It is rare for school children in the countryside of Nigeria to interact with foreigners, and this group seized the chance to take photos with Lisa Siner.

Caption 2 (bottom): John Siner interviewing Bob Munro, founder of the MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association), in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya, which organizes soccer leagues to promote social responsibility and development in poverty-stricken areas.

Photos courtesy of John and Lisa Siner

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