Instagram Stories offers new way of interacting with tournament

It was 1990 and the World Cup was in Italy. I was 8, almost 9, and I was sitting cross-legged next to my friend, Stephen, on the shag carpet of his living room floor in Devola, Ohio. On the TV, the game flowed with grace and magic.

I can't recall who played or what the score was, but I was spellbound, completely transfixed. I absorbed every feint, juke, tackle, shot and save.

I was also, at the same time, in some amount of pain. Hours earlier I had broken my arm in a bicycle wreck on the way to Stephen's house. I wouldn't find out it was broken until much later that evening, but really, and I'm not exaggerating, the pain was nothing next to the game unfolding on the TV.

This was everything. Before me, gods played.

The rest of the summer, with my left arm in a red cast, I'd recreate that game in my yard after school, on the soccer field after practice, or whenever I had a ball and a patch of flat, green grass.

I found myself similarly inspired after watching the opening games of this year's World Cup, too. My Sambas stayed on my feet all weekend, and my newly re-inflated soccer ball was attached to them anytime I was outside. I've also, in the last week or so, played countless hours of “FIFA 18,” worn all of my kits and watched old Landon Donovan interviews and highlights.

But my favorite way to interact with this year's tournament is, by far, through Instagram Stories.

The beauty of Instagram Stories is that it retains most of what makes Twitter great, but it's not as much of a time suck, it won't make you stabby and it's, well, beautiful, too.

The soccer-culture account @soccerbible, for instance, provides an unmatched intimate view of the fan experience through photos and videos taken inside stadiums and at watch parties around the world.

Other soccer-culture accounts, such as @mundialmag, @kickstothepitch, @art_of_football, @season_zine and @shukyumagazine take a broader approach, highlighting soccer fashion pop-ups or behind-the-scenes access to fan-related events around the host cities (including an Action Bronson concert!). All specialize in snark, wit and humor.

English media account @433 went the other direction and let former England international Jermaine Jenas take over its Stories account for a day. Jenas took viewers from the stands to the pitch to the pub, providing a unique perspective from a former player with better access than most media.

Meanwhile, stateside media account @copa90us does just about everything, including posting schedules, curating videos shot by fans for each day's games, hosting live Q&As with fans after games, and posting interactive polls for each match.

Even official accounts, whether from brands (@adidasfootball), players (@harrykane), countries (@footballiceland) or the tournament itself (@fifaworldcup), are worth following for their access to players and other spaces official media can't go.

My favorite approach, however, comes from @theturfftbl, which is hosting an Instagram Stories tournament to finally settle the most important question of all: Which World Cup team has the hottest kit?

If you don't say Nigeria, we're not going to be friends. But I'd still like to know: What's your favorite World Cup story?