The World Cup final is tomorrow and it should be a good one, the artistry of Messi against the disciplined approach of Germany. I will be rooting for Germany as I have been since the beginning of the tournament but , if Argentina wins, I will be happy for Messi. Leading his country to a victory in the World Cup would cap a glittering career. But , one way or another, it will all be over tomorrow and then there will be a four-year wait until the next World Cup.
I was talking to my nephew this afternoon and he was bemoaning the fast approaching end of this edition of the World Cup. No surprise because he is an avid sports fan who follows many sports. What did surprise me was when my wife expressed similar sentiments a couple of days ago. She is only an occasional sports fan but she was glued to the TV for most of the tournament and, along the way,became quite knowledgeable about soccer. Soccer appeals to her in a way that American football does not. Except for the offside rule, there are no complexities to the game of soccer to befuddle watchers. Kick the ball. Keep it away from the opposing team. Try to shoot it past the goalkeeper. Elemental. All you need is a soccer ball and a piece of vacant ground. No other equipment needed. No wonder it is the # 1 sport in the world. No wonder more people play it and watch it than do any other sport.
I suppose that because the World Cup comes around only once every four years makes it all the more memorable. If it occurred more often, it would not have the same cachet. Yet I find it appeals more to me than even the Olympics. The Olympics have their own allure but they are too big; there are too many things going on, too many judging controversies, too much politics, too many obscure sports of no interest to me. By the half way point, I am sated.
The World Cup is not perfect but it is closer to perfection than anything else. Yes, the traditional powers usually carry the day but, on any given day, David can slay Goliath. Who among us did not cheer tiny Costa Rica’s entry to the quarterfinals? Or feel a thrill as Ghana held mighty Germany to a draw ?
The World Cup has added appeal because it is contested by national teams. The teams are made up of professionals but they are not club sides. Because of this, the fans in the stands are more passionate about the fortunes of their team and it shows. All of us who watched the Brazil- Germany semifinal will remember the sight of the heartbroken little Brazilian boy sobbing uncontrollably as his team unraveled. Or the stunned Brazilian woman with tears rolling down her cheeks.There were happy moments too as fans whose team had just won celebrated in the hands.
Considering the high emotions aroused by the matches, the fans were surprisingly very sporting. They watched the matches sitting side by side, singing their fight songs but seemed to accept defeat with stoicism , sometimes even with grace. Towards the end of the Brazilian team’s rout by Germany, an elderly Brazilian supporter turned to a German fan and handed over his facsimile Jules Rimet trophy. Is that sporting or what?
The fans, the stadiums, the ceremony, the matches themselves with their moments of sheer magic and high tension make the World Cup the premier sporting event in the world. It will be sad when tomorrow’s final is over and we will have to wait four years for the next edition of the World Cup. Still, there is one more match tomorrow. May it be a good one.