Why does football so dominate the world of sports? How does it win so many hearts and minds with ease? This game moves across borders, rises above cultures and penetrates class like no other. Is it because the game holds some magical grace that other sports lack? Or does its simplicity cater to a species which is far more simple than it cares to admit?
Those who have any doubts about the global appeal of the World Cup need only scan this week’s wire reports. Things always get weird about this time every four years. Governments have begun issuing official warnings to avoid binge drinking and eating while watching matches. They fear mass weakening of their nation as millions of citizens transform into World Cup zombies over the duration of the month-long tournament. ‘Sleep deprivation will reduce one’s immunity, make people more prone to sickness, accidents and injury, and affect work performance,’ a Hong Kong Government document declared yesterday.
Blue Coat, a US company, is selling a tech service to businesses who are afraid employees will fill their computer screens with World Cup downloads instead of work. Big Brother is not only watching, he’s going to rain on your matches too.
At this moment, lonely wives are planning extravagant four-week affairs with lovers, knowing that their Cup-crazed husbands won’t notice.
Somewhere out there right now parents of players are praying that their son does not score an own-goal and end up murdered for it.
Northern Ireland’s largest manufacturer has banned England team wallcharts during the World Cup. Supporting England in the World Cup, according to the executives who made the decision, say such posters are in breach of the company’s ‘neutral working environment policy’.
Iran will play Mexico on 11 June. Iranians are justifiably overjoyed with their team’s qualification. Undoubtedly, their first match will be well attended by Iranian fans, both men and women. Of course that’s only because the game will take place in Germany. Because, you see, in Iran women are not allowed to attend football matches.
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter has been outspoken about racism in football lately. Fed up with banana tossing and ape chants in Europe. If it happens at a World Cup match, Blatter says he will end the game and empty the stadium. That’s a bold threat. Can you imagine trying to control the crowd if that happens? Hopefully the pre-historic fans who do these sorts of thing were shut out of the tickets.
In the summer of 1994 I travelled across five continents while the World Cup raged. It was a lonely journey but a friend was always present no matter where I wandered: The World Cup.
In Kenya, fans crowded around a TV in my hotel lobby and chanted continuously. I had no idea what they were saying or who they were cheering for but it was pure music to my ears.
A Nepalese woman-who looked great for someone who was at least 1,000 years-old-offered to pray for my favorite team in the Cup.
In Fiji I had a long talk with a few villagers about the Brazilian team that had just won the final a few days before. For an hour we were not people from different sides of the world. We were just people and it felt great.
For the next four weeks, the World Cup will become humanity dropped into concrete bowls spread across Germany. It probably will display a little of our best, a little of our worst. Therefore, if you claim to love humankind, you have no choice but to love this event.