By Rob Scott
Three days and counting down… The 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday in Brazil, when 32 of the world’s best footballing nations go head-to-head vying for supremacy – and a place in history – in the largest sporting event on the globe.
The qualifications are done, the groups decided, and all the pre-tournament camps and international friendlies are done and dusted. All that’s left is the referee’s whistle to get things kicked off.
The World Cup never fails to stir the emotions, and brings back many memories – most of them fond, and some less so.
In 2010, it was South Africa, and who could forget the host nation opening the tournament scoring thanks to Siphiwe Tshabalala’s spectacular effort to the postage stamp corner to beat the Mexican keeper? The match would end in a 1-1 draw, and the South Africans would fail to make it out of the group stage, but it didn’t matter for Bafana Bafana, as they’d captured the hearts of their nation, and the imaginations of hundreds of millions more. The 2010 WC also saw the advent of the vuvuzela – perhaps the most dastardly invention since the notion of “tax” first slithered through the mind of some Dark Ages bureaucrat. But that’s a discussion for another day.
That year also marked our first World Cup back home in Canada after having spent 15 years in our second home, Switzerland. Although Canada sadly wasn’t in the mix in 2010, we were all too happy to wake before the birds to cheer on the red and white of the Swiss, relishing in their 1-0 victory over eventual champions Spain, but having to bid a tearful und Tschuess! after the group stage.
Before that, it was Germany’s turn to host the World Cup. In 2006, we were still in Zurich, and the proximity to hub of the action made for an atmosphere that was simply electric. There were various “fan miles”, both official and not, in various parts of the city, and seemingly every apartment and townhouse balcony was decked out in a national flag of one sort or another.
It was then, when my son developed a serious addiction to Panini stickers, which were sold, swapped, and brokered at every turn. It struck me at the time that where else but at the crossroads of Europe could a Canadian guy like me sit in an Irish pub together with a Swiss banker enjoying the best German Weissbier while watching Italy and the USA go at it tooth and nail, all while surrounded by fans wearing every national kit you could imagine, from Portugal to Australia, and everywhere in between?
And isn’t that really what the World Cup is all about? Bringing together people of every shape, size, colour, gender, age, and nationality to share a common love for what, at its best, has been dubbed the beautiful game. Regardless of who you support, what continent you live on, or your circumstance in life – we can all acknowledge and appreciate that bond.
I came across an old favourite the other day – the intro to EA Sports’ FIFA 06. It’s something that sums it all up quite nicely, I believe. Take a look and share your thoughts. Which country are you backing? And who’s going to hoist the World Cup trophy this year?