Monday, May 24, 2010

Why I love the World Cup

The 2010 Football World Cup is rapidly approaching and I am amped. I spend hours a day poring over articles about every aspect of the tournament and I re-live previous tournaments through any means possible. I watch all of the TV that is even vaguely related to the tournament: “Official World Cup Preview”, “Destination South Africa”, “The Greatest of Our Time”, “World Football Rivalries” and anything else I can get my hands on. I own books that detail every single game played at every World Cup since it started. I plan to watch every minute of the World Cup. I did it in 2006 and 2002 and watched every second that my parents allowed me to in 1990, 1994 and 1998. And I have seen many hours of archived footage of all the other tournaments. Basically I am obsessed. This blog post will explore why the World Cup is so important to me and the rest of the football mad planet.

First and foremost, the Football World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet. Whilst I love the club team Leeds United more than any other sporting team there ever was or ever will be (by a long long way) the Football World Cup as a tournament dwarfs anything and everything. It is a month of a smorgasbord of football. 64 mouth-watering games with 32 teams (countries) battling it out for the right to call themselves world champions.

Qualification for the Football World Cup is arduous. The same countries do not appear in every tournament as qualification is so intense and difficult for many teams. Each World Cup there are big football nations that miss out on the competition such as Netherlands in 02. The 2010 version does not feature Croatia, Russia and Czech Republic for example.

The vast majority of the countries that get to appear at the Football World Cup are football mad. They are nations obsessed with success at the tournament. For some it is because of their proud histories: think England, Italy, France, Germany etc. For others it is in part because of the poverty of their populace: think African countries among others. In hard times football is something that can bind the whole country together. Wannabe footballers from the age of 4 upwards spend hours playing football on the streets emulating their heroes and dreaming of becoming a hero for the next generation. The country comes to a standstill when their nation plays and the whole nation breathe collective sighs of relief; celebrate with joyous ecstasy or bond in devastating despair. The countries footballers carry the hopes and dreams of their nation. And whilst to a non-football fan this seems silly, there is a perfect sense to it all.

One of the beautiful things about football is the intense rivalries. Matches between England and Germany, Spain and Portugal, England and Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands, to name but a few, are more than about football. They are moulded from the battlefields of war. They also develop from (perceived) injustices and bad luck suffered on the football pitch.

Would England v Germany have quite the same bite without (for example)

- the 2 world wars
- the controversial Hurst goal in the 66 World Cup Final (for which debate rages to this day as to whether the ball crossed the line),
- England’s semi-final penalty shoot-out losses in 1990 and 1996
No it would not.

Would England Argentina have quite the same bite without

- the Falklands War
- Ramsey’s description of the Argentinean players as ‘animals’ in the 1966 quarter-final after being so incensed by their dirty play
- the Maradona ‘Hand-of-God’ in 86,
- the Beckham sending off and penalty shoot-out loss in 1998,
- the Beckham penalty goal in 2002 (was it an Owen dive?)?
Again, no it would not.

Football history is littered with these kinds of rivalries. In the 2006 World Cup Angola found themselves in the same group as Portugal – the country from which they gained their independence in 1975. (They lost 1-0). In 2002 the opening game of the World Cup was Senegal France. Senegal gained its independence from France in 1960 and one of France’s best ever footballers, who happened to be playing in that match was Patrick Vieira – a man born in Senegal. Senegal stunned the football world with a beautiful 1-0 victory. That match epitomised in many ways the beauty of both football and the World Cup in general.

The 2010 Football World Cup will be a month long carnival no doubt featuring

- many of the world’s best footballers (who by virtue of this are also celebrities)
- brilliant games
- spectacular goals
- scrappy, lucky goals,
- sublime skill
- controversial decisions
- one or two minnows who surprise the world and make the quarter-finals
- massive games between footballing powerhouses
- unlucky, unjustified and justified suspensions from some of the bigger games
- the drama of at least one penalty shoot-out
- tears
- ecstasy
- despair
- laughter
- the odd bit of hooliganism
- injuries
- diving
- frustrations
- MUCH MUCH MORE.

What can you expect from this blog as we countdown to (and during) the tournament? I will be profiling each team, each group. I will be discussing team and squad selections, pointing out some of the interesting ironies, analysing the games, perhaps making the odd prediction or two and a lot more.

Join me on this journey. Comment, discuss, and argue over the beautiful game on the biggest stage of them all.

6 comments:

Inventory2 said...

Great stuff William! I'll look forward to visiting and commenting, and will give you a shout-out when I review the All Whites game on Keeping Stock tomorrow.

We also have a weekly This Sporting Life post on Fridays, which is a general sports debate. Feel free to stop by and share your opinion; we don't have a Leeds United supporter (or anyone who confesses to it!!).

William Fussey said...

Thanks!

I tend to read your comments through your facebook notes rather than on your blog. I will try visit more often. Our opinions often concur on politics and sport - two of the greatest subjects one can discuss :)

Inventory2 said...

20 minutes until kick-off; I can't hardly wait!

Inventory2 said...

1-nil - to us!

Inventory2 said...

Well, that was a bit of a let-down at the end. But it was a very solid performance by the starting eleven, until Bertos was quite literally kicked of the pitch.

Anyway, have given you a bit of a mention here:

http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2010/05/beaten-but-not-bowed.html

William Fussey said...

Great stuff, thanks!