Ever seen a bunch of guys wandering the streets in the early morning hours, looking alert and wearing soccer jerseys? It may seem like a cult, but let’s not forget how big the world is, and how popular soccer (they call it football) really is. Maybe you’ve caught the bug yourself in a recent World Cup, watching the hopes of two nations pitted against each other in a winner-take-all duel. If you think we take our own sports seriously, check out the world’s main event, on tap every four years for global bragging rights. The passion will exceed any modest fan’s expectations.

In fact, maybe you have a friend or acquaintance from a foreign country who has seemed unavailable at the oddest hours. Chances are, he (or she) has joined up with some like-minded folks and shackled himself to the nearest available HD television set. It just may be soccer time. With satellite tv being what it is nowadays, the hungry sports fan can have his main course in any country he chooses, making the earth a significantly smaller place.

You don’t have to be at home in Chelsea to watch a bitter showdown with Manchester United, the New York Yankees of English Soccer. The English Premier League, seen in high definition technology — with its thunderous crowds, nonstop action and mesmerizing goals — will make any jaded baseball fan look up and take note. The same goes for Spanish or Italian football channels, where the intricate plays and rousing “GOAL!” celebrations will leave you spellbound.

In fact, the road to the 2010 World Cup has already begun. Europe has been a-buzz for months as the crafty Italian team regroups and prepares to defend its title after a dramatic win over France in the 2006 final. The always-mighty England plans to forge on minus former captain David Beckham, now now tv 足球 stationed in Los Angeles as he brings the MLS into the world spotlight. Germany is prepping their legendary defense for another strong showing.

So Argentina, a country which always fields a top-notch team for the classic event, has contracted World Cup legend Diego Maradona as the coach of the national team. Maradona was immortalized in a World Cup match against England in 1986 when he scored what FIFA, the international football organization, voted “Goal of the Century.” Not a bad leader. Though he has alienated Juan Riquelme, a hero of Argentina’s 2006 squad, causing him to quit the team, the excitement surrounding Maradona’s return to the national team has already been epic. After battling a series of personal problems, the former football master has returned to the top.

As the final qualifying rounds for Africa’s 2010 Cup continue to play out over the next few months, you’ll see that strange cult hovering around a bar entrance while on your way to work some time soon. And if your foreign correspondent or computer expert calls in sick the same day, do him a favor and pretend like you have no idea what

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