The Cup brimmeth over in Brazil
Updated: 2014-06-21 09:19
By Op Rana(China Daily)
Spain return home hammered, humbled and humiliated. If only Coach Vicente Del Bosque had stuck to his strategy, if only he had not told his immensely talented bunch to feed the ball to the invisible figure of Diego Costa (brilliant as he is as a striker) near the rival penalty box, if only Spain had played to their potential, if only Robin van Persie's header had not turned into a nightmare for the defending champions, if only ... the ifs can go on, and that is the beauty of the game of soccer.
The World Cup, in its first week, has already produced enough shocks
and surprises, heartbreaks and euphoria, upsets and linear scripts. The Netherlands, avenging their 2010 final loss to Spain, are already in the round of 16 with Chile for company. Hosts Brazil, neighbors Argentina, Colombia and Germany look set to join them.
True, new stars are yet to be born, but this Cup seems to be all about teams, not individuals. The van Persies, Neymars, Robbens, Muellers and Messis have come good, though, so have the Suarezes, Cavanis, Rooneys, Pirlos and Balotellis.
Soccer in Brazil has revived from its lackluster state in South Africa four years ago. Praise the players and coaches for that, not FIFA or the organizers. Goals have been raining in Brazil compared with the drought in the past few Cups. Eleven goals were scored in just the two matches the Dutch have played; in all 66 goals scored in 22 matches, perhaps the best goal scoring ratio since 1958.
The party continues, so to speak, for the next three weeks. True to the party spirit, the world will remain glued to TV sets, PC screens and radios until July 13. And why not? Soccer is a great leveler, the most popular game on the planet. The players are larger than life figures, some of them demigods. The coaches and managers are figures to be revered. Together they produce magic on the field, give us unalloyed joy, soothe our souls, invigorate our minds and exhilarate our hearts, even if they leave us dejected, despaired and downcast sometimes.
Not surprisingly then, very few will have time to look or think beyond the soccer fields and stadiums, at least for the time being, and see the real world of "big soccer" and what actually goes on there.
Frankly speaking, why should we soccer fans be bothered about the protests and demonstrations that preceded the opening of the World Cup and still continue in Brazil? Why should we be bothered about the abysmally low wages paid to workers who built the giant stadiums and other infrastructure that have already made this one of the best World Cups in terms of the quality of soccer and goals scored in recent memory? Why should we question the ineptly built Itaquera Stadium in Sao Paulo, where the opening match was held?
There is no reason for us to ask why the former Brazilian soccer chief Ricardo Teixeira, who fled to Miami after a massive scandal, insisted on building the Itaquera when Sao Paulo already had a grand stadium that only needed to be refurbished at a time when the country was in the throes of an austerity drive. Who are soccer fans to question FIFA bosses' insistence in such matters? And who are we to ask why the hectares and hectares of razed ground (thanks to the demolition of houses) around the stadium are still devoid of the planned apartment blocks, offices, shopping malls and transport hubs?
Such stories are not uncommon in other cities. In fact, most of the countries that host such galas suffer from the same malaise. But we still want our share of shrills and thrills. And who can blame us for that?
Brazil's win at the Pasadena Rice Bowl, California, in 1994 prompted the then distraught and poverty-stricken Brazilians to forget the political and economic mess their country was in. Perhaps the same story will be repeated in some other country (or Brazil again) this time.
We have to wait and see. In the meantime, the show, as they say, must go on.
The author is a senior editor with China Daily. firstname.lastname@example.org.