In my earlier “the beautiful game” blog post, I reflected on my lifetime interest and involvement with the game of football, admitting that these days any contribution I can make to playing the game at any level will be severely curtailed. I made mention of the football World Cup, which like the Olympics is held every four years and like the Olympics is one of the two “must follow “ events. While cynics can point to all sorts of reasons why the World Cup has deviated from the traditional noble aspirations of the game, evidenced for example by awarding the 2018 tournament to Qatar for non-footballing reasons and with more than a hint of corruption, this particular tournament still represents the pinnacle of the game.
I write now because tomorrow is when the next tournament begins, although the build up to it by way of playing qualification games has been happening over these past two years. I would like to say there is excited anticipation over what might take place but maybe as I get older and more cynical it doesn’t quite seem like that, although maybe it is just me. With the rise of the Internet, it is a lot easier these days to switch on and off to what is happening according to ones interests but I’m pretty sure once the tournament gets under way so will the coverage in all aspects of the media and one can well get hooked. After months of anticipation it is time to bring in on.
I have followed every football World Cup with varying degrees of intensity since 1966. 1966 was of course a significant year, particularly if you are English, because that is the year England won it. As a 15 year old I was definitely caught up in the romance of it all and unlike in the tournaments that followed I can remember every game England played. I really sensed this was the culmination of the very best in football and whoever won really were the best. While there have been hopes and expectations of a repeat performance it has never materialized and if pundits are to be believed it is even less likely to happen this time around. But as a supporter of my team, I will wish them success and will be cheering them on.
I have reservations about how the game at the higher levels is going as my previous football post indicated. The excitement I felt in 1966 I find increasingly more difficult to muster, not just because I am old and grumpy, but because commercial interests are now very much to the fore and the game appears that less sportsmanlike, and the stars people look up to so often don’t deserve the acclamation they do receive. I hope there will not be a repeated of the 2010 final when the dirty Dutch seemed to get away with their antics against the more talented Spanish side, even though justice was done in the end. One of my main gripes is around the country verses club debate. It seems to me preposterous that we have been unable to resolve this question in favour of country always coming before club, even to the extent of thinking the unthinkable and taking out the world cup squad from their clubs a month earlier so they can be fully rested and prepared so that they can be at and give of their best.
Who will win is anyone’s guess. It is difficult to see much beyond the hosts, Brazil, winning it. Other possibilities include Argentina and of course Germany, much as the bookies are predicting. Always there will be surprises, especially when outsiders exceed expectations and I can only hope that England will be one of them. I am sure it will be as in previous years when the leading teams build up slowly and peak when it matters, and there will be an element of luck playing a part. Refereeing will be an issue and I hope this will be firm and fair. It is worth noting that the tournament is being played in a country with a fantastic football heritage and following and given it has such a rich and diverse culture this will provide an added dimension.
While I tend not to do late nights these days, I daresay given the time zone differences for the next few weeks there will be some exceptions. I will be following the progress of the tournament with interest and will no doubt be adding my two penneth worth along with my football loving friends (realizing other friends and family members are anything but) and pundits. Come the end, I will posting my reflections of how I felt the whole tournament went. My hope is that it will be a great tournament and that the best footballing nation will go on and win the prized trophy.