IT’S an event that transfixes the globe, followed with an almost religious zeal by billions of fans.
And more than 13,000km away from the soccer World Cup’s epicentre in Rio, that passion will burn just as brightly here.
For Calala’s Soto family, tomorrow morning’s clash between the Socceroos and Chile will come with mixed emotions.
Soccer-mad dad Carlos Soto and his wife Jessica were born in Chile, but their children Chris, Diana and Sarah – and granddaughter Lucy – were born in Tamworth.
Mr Soto said while he would closely follow the progress of his adopted country, his heart was tied to Chile.
“It’s hard for us at the moment but you never forget where you are from,” Mr Soto said.
“I know how much soccer means to the people of Chile.
“They live in poverty, they suffer discrimination from their bosses, they have a corrupt government.
“The World Cup allows them for a moment to forget about that ... it brings them a bit closer to happiness.”
Mr Soto, who came to Tamworth from Chile in 1986, said the South Americans’ love for soccer was incomparable.
“Marriages don’t break up because of affairs, they break up because of soccer,” Mr Soto said.
“Women just get sick of their husbands worshipping the game so much – it’s all they do.
“In Australia, you can be successful without sport, but in Chile it’s all they have.
“It’s the one thing that can make you rich and famous and if you have a boy, it’s only natural that he plays soccer.”
The Sotos will watch tomorrow’s game, which kicks off at 7am Australian time, at their Calala home.
Other venues across Tamworth, including Wests League Club and Cafe 2340, will screen the match live.