Big Guy Car Guy / France / Travel

On Winning the World Cup As An Underdog

I know this stretch well. I’ve driven it on sunny Sunday mornings and foggy AF Tuesday afternoons too, as my two daughters merrily rolled along taking selfies in the 2nd and 3rd rows but also alone and lonely with a spinning head pushing dangerous thoughts with more passive-aggression than a back alley dealer.

Because I loath out and back routes, I’ll resist the urge to restate the particulars of Kia’s brand story but while the overdog added a 4th star in France this summer, the automotive underdog also won the 2019 World Cup.

Winning the World Cup in France with Kia
If you didn’t stop at a castle, where you ever even in France?

It’s not a forced stretching of a narrative to say that women’s soccer shares more than few plot points with the Korean car manufacturer.

Both women’s soccer and Kia cars are often unceremoniously and rather ignorantly shit upon and both work overtime in a doomed effort to prove their worth while others in their peer group skate by time and time again on reputation.

Finally, both the Women’s World Cup and Kia are, today, of the utmost quality but see and hear regularly, from mouthy fools, that this quality is not believed.

Driving the Kia Sportage toward and beneath the famous cube houses in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

This summer, hundreds of remarkable female footballers and dozens of quality coaches put down a marker of epic proportions in front of hundreds of millions of supporters and skeptics alike from Seoul to São Paulo, Nigeria to New York.

Reading 8×8 Magazine while in southeast France enjoying either a pizza with dreams of being a salad or the other way around. Either way, it was delicious and the article was divine.

Endorsements and sponsorships and grassroots investment and new fans and increased prize money (and I-swear-to-God-there-better-be increased wages) are already or will soon be flooding in big Noah-style. The U.S. Women’s National Team is the vessel welcoming everyone on board to sail away with swagger into a better tomorrow, on and off the pitch.

With Stinger, Telluride, Soul and Sportage, Kia has been doing something similar for years now. Kia has raised its level, bettered its backroom staff, proved their worth again and again and again, won awards again and again and again. And yet some many refuse to get in even with a welcoming door left wide open.

I climbed inside several years ago and haven’t looked back (we lease a Sorento and a Soul as our family cars), and for 12 days in June, I drove a red Kia Sportage around France as a similar red Sportage drove around the immaculate green pitches on FIFA Women’s World Cup advertising hoarding in Reims, Rennes, Le Havre, Paris and beyond.

Yes I got dinged with a few speeding tickets and yes I broke my bread embargo on three occasions as I visited a trio of countries (most deliciously with a papaya encrusted chevre, clove honey and pear baguette sandwich in Brussels at Tonton Garby cheese shop), immensely enjoying open borders more and more as I crisscrossed into and out of Belgium, Netherlands and France in between 7 World Cup matches in 12 days.

Kia France Sportage at a charming French B&B
The Kia France Sportage out front of the charming b&b I stayed at near Le Havre.

All the while, with every positive tweet I fired off into the ether about women’s soccer in France while the USWNT was marching toward winning the World Cup and back at home in the NWSL, and every Instagram story photo of my red Sportage beside a castle or in front of an impossibly charming French cottage b&b, I was keenly aware of what I was doing:

I was trying desperately to change hearts and minds.

Winning the World Cup with Kia and the USWNT in France
The 2019 Kia Sportage parked in The Hague, Netherlands, where I enjoyed a day with the painting of Piet Mondrian and the drawings of M.C. Escher.

It is probably too earnest of me — and I seriously think the level of earnestness I have been displaying regarding certain topics recently is off-putting to some — but I want to be the reason why a guy starts to watch the NWSL alone as well as with his sons and daughters. I want to be the the impetus for someone to test drive a Kia and also the genesis of a European vacation for my brother’s family and maybe for you and yours too.

I want all of these and like the 4-star USWNT, I have no intention of compromising on my dream.

Winning the World Cup with Kia and the USWNT in France
So very French.

And when you visit, I hope that you’ll see a women’s football match, rent a Kia, and eat more bread and cheese than is probably wise because these things are top top quality and life is too short to hold on to ancient opinions or to put an embargo on anything joyous.

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