The money has poured in but Beautiful Game is pure at heart
IT’S here, it’s finally here. The World Cup, the greatest event in the history of the planet. The most important thing to happen to us every four years. My brain is filled with visions of my team lifting the coveted trophy once again, as my mind wanders from the mundane to the sublime.
“Is there a match on?” some ask innocently? “Yes.” Sure it’s only the minor issue of a bunch of overpaid, supercilious prats – well Sergio Ramos and many a latino player – kicking a ball around the place in a corrupt host country, nominated by a bunch of praetorian officials, with 3.2 billion people watching on across the globe, exhibiting ferocious enthusiasm and expertise.
In 2014, one billion people watched the World Cup final between my team – Germany – and Argentina in Rio de Janeiro, the biggest live event of the 21st century and I can’t help but think to myself, what the hell were the other six billion people doing? Someone must have forgotten to count a few punters on the streets of Lahore, Mogadishu or La Paz, peering at a telly outside some café.
Who counts these things anyway and, more worryingly, how?
Anyway, back to Russia. Eight years after winning the right to host the World Cup, beating England on a staggeringly perfidious day in Johannesburg in 2010, we’ve arrived at the World Cup again – without Ireland. Again.
England, who invented the modern game, who were uniquely poised to host it with dozens of world class stadiums, fantastic infrastructure, endorsing celebrities like Prince William and David Beckham and a soccermad populace, were screwed over. Russia, which didn’t have adequate stadiums or infrastructure, won the bid and England only got two votes.
The FBI got involved, and one of the largest investigations of international graft and money laundering in American history began. As described by the ‘New York Times’, it would “expose decades of deep-seated rot and corruption in global soccer”.
Racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, dozens of arrests – all over a ball.
It’s difficult for non-soccer fans to fathom the magnitude of interest in 22 men playing with a ball, especially when its roots are so simple.
The first known team game involving said ball – made out of
a rock in this case, occurred in Mesoamerican culture 3,000 years ago. According to history, the ball symbolised the sun and the captain of the losing team would be sacrificed to the gods. Kind of similar to what happens if the German team loses.
The world’s oldest football clubs were founded in England from 1857 and the FA Cup was founded in
1871 as the world’s first organised competition, formally legitimising professionalism in 1885. Recently, CIES Football Observatory algorithms figures found that the French national team are worth
€1.41bn, England worth €1.39bn and Brazil worth €1.27bn.
The estimated transfer value for all players participating in the World Cup is €12.6bn. Money, money, money. Just look at Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui getting sacked on the eve of the tournament because he failed to mention that part about moving to Real Madrid to his monied overlords. It’s like the allies getting rid of Eisenhower before D-Day.
It’s all about club football now with coaches earning up to
€20m, compared to Joachim Low, Germany coach, getting a measly
€3m. I know Irish people love the Spanish team, but I don’t. I hope they screw up.
I support Germany, to a point of obsession. I’ve been a fan since 1982 and I watch most of the matches in Germany. Like most German fans, it’s about being better than we were last time round, but we are hard on our team. None of this ‘Fields of Athenry’ stuff when we’re losing.
The political storm surrounding Mezut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan being photographed with controversial president of Turkey Recep Erdogan in May could cost us. Although Turks have been living in Germany for decades, happily side by side, proud German fans, of which 70,000 odd are travelling to Moscow, said enough is enough – booing the pair in the two underwhelming warm-up matches and potentially bringing their ire to Russia with Low.
This could affect the performance of the rest of the team. It’s scary stuff.
BUT enough about politics and money, once you take them out what’s left is pure joy. Germans call football ‘die schönste Nebensache der Welt ’– the best distraction in the world. If you ever win a World Cup, everyone is happy, no matter how young or old. There is nothing in the world that compares.
There’s a man in Bangladesh who made the longest German flag in the world – it’s 3.5km long. It took him four years. Who does that – only for the beautiful game?
It doesn’t matter where you are, once you’re on a football pitch, be it in South Africa, Brazil, Germany, be it made of sand, stone or grass, it’s a place where people come together for a unifying experience.
Its simplicity, accessibility and togetherness make it so special. Most people can afford a ball, and anyone can play it.
So here’s to the World Cup. Let it be glorious, let it be peaceful. Let us be kind to the Russians and them to their guests.
Let us enjoy it as a global community and let the best (Ger)mans win.