It's more than just a game. It always has been. That said, what happens on the field is paramount. If you take away the magnificent 22, there's no reason to watch, of course. Yet if you take away the 22,000 in the stands, there's really no reason to play the game. You could still play out the 90 minutes, but without the passion and the colourful fury of the fanatics, the players and the event at large, is robbed of the collective energy that elevates a 'game' to something much bigger than sport.
This gallery is about all that, "the much bigger" stuff, the slice of life stuff that weaves a match into memorable moments of hopefully, great football on the field and song and colour, pride and passion in every crevice of the stadium and streets surrounding.
Pre-kick-off: Japan vs. Scotland
Asia and Europe were on the field but the noisiest, most colourful element in the stands was clearly African. The Nigerians were up next and their fans had arrived early to rock RAP. At the conclusion of Matchday 1 in Victoria, the Nigerians led the parade across Caledonia to downtown, with songs and drums and cops scrambling to contain the swell. This, in its own spontaneous mayhem, was a beautiful jolt in the arm to a traditionally apathetic Canadian collective. And on this day, if you didn't find a beautiful game on the field, you could certainly find it in the ear-to-ear grins of the Nigerians.