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The Beautiful Game: World Cup 2014 In Brazil

June 3, 2014       Special Feature
Why Does the World Love Football?  

GOOOOOOOAAAAAAL!   It's that time of the world football season again.  If you work with a foreign national, chances are they'll skip work to go to the nearest pub that shows the games.  Or your friends, who are nuts about football, will wake up at 3AM and watch the damn inconveniently scheduled match between their favorite teams and be terribly late for work the next day.  Only the Miss Universe pageant can do this to us Filipinos, but what is the World Cup for the fans of football but the most important international pageant--definitely way more important than that other thing they call the Olympics. 

The World Cup for 2014 Brazil  kicks into high gear this month (June), renewing another treasured engagement among us football fans (and hooligans) and our favorite national teams.  All in the wildest and uninhibited football nations of the world: BRAZIL.

Remember those national anthems for the World Cup?  Especially Ricky Martin's Maria and Go Go Go, Ale Ale Ale.  Chumbawumba too.  Sorry, national ROCK anthems of the event.  For World Cup Fever, something to look forward too for all of us who love the crazy sport is the crazy music.  

If you think the Filipino basketball crowd is nuts, you ain't seen international football fans go bonkers.  Football can create violence, but hooliganism and trampling at an overcrowded stadium will be the least of any fan's worries in this years games.  Not forgetting the scheduled matches is every fan's holy devotion this June until the end of the tournament. 

You will see fans paint themselves their national colors on their face and in other places on their person and flaunt it, while dancing during the game intermissions.

You see completely manly dudes cry openly if their national team loses. 

When the sports announcer to scream 'GOOOOOOOOAAAAL!' and its your team that does it, you will see a kind of celebration you will only see when the Second Coming happens.  Good things always go on in football.

Why the Mad On for Football?

Football is an amazing sport, but it isn't for everyone who prefers fast action like basketball or volleyball.  There are ebbs and flows within the game and surprising plays that either come from out of nowhere or you get to see it coming and the victim of the scoring attack can do nothing to stop it.  If you've played the game as a kid in school or on the streets of your neighborhood, you'll know how it feels to score a goal no matter how lucky or how deft your play was. 

Fans watching the game, live their team's action on the field, and sometimes a bit  rabid.  Worse than any backseat driver you will ever know.  But this is all good because nothing else brings the world's millions of  well-meaning, backseat driving-sportsfans together like football.

The fans are crazy like that.  It is a blasphemy for their national team to lose to anyone except by divine intervention during the World Cup.  The national teams of the world play two 45 minute halfs per match.  That is 3 hours or more of total sports drama and even comedy, as well as rockstar worship for your favorite athletes.

Football jerseys of your favorite national team become the most prized uniform for work and play;  as it is as well for every football fan in the world whose country plays in the World Cup.  Local watering holes cash in on the event by staying open when certain scheduled matches are sure to be a carousing magnet for the local expat community as well as travellers in Manila who want to catch up on the nail biting action.  Any game seen will be home away from home.

Football, as a game, CAN heal frayed ties and set aside long running racial strifes among peoples.  Remember in 2002 or so, when the U.S. put a national team of sorts with Landon Donovan, and their team lost to IRAN, both in an overseas tune-up match and during one of the preliminary games in the tourney?  Maybe it's because the U.S. lost to the Iranians, but those matches showed that the football loving Persian-Arabs are still gracious human beings and not what propaganda paint them to be.

The fact that the World Cup could even take place in South Korea and in Japan, as it did in 2002, was a victory for the game as a better mutually healing celebration.  The two nations had rather frosty relations due to postwar hurts and economic competition.  All bad blood before the games were hosted in their respective countries was completely forgotten.  No amount of diplomatic hoodoo and arm twisting would have closed that gap, but the love for a game changed everything overnight.  Before the mutual World Cup hosting, South Korea would not even allow the Japanese national team to cross its borders for a World Cup qualifier.  After the 2002 Cup co-hosting, they are now two of the best economic and cultural allies in Asia, to the point that in this day, even Korean pop music has become the favorite pop music of Japan and even the world.

Unforgettable Fire:  World Cup 1998 in France

I remember the 1998 World Cup France, and was rooting for the Netherlands (with Gus van Hiddink helming a very sharp passing team) which reached the semifinals before losing to penalty shootout with Brazil.  

One unforgettable moment:  Totally jaw-dropping footwork by Dennis Bergkampf getting the ball by long pass, on the attack within enemy territory close to the goal, and weaving in stride past three Argentinian defenders to score for the Orangemen.  Doing this TWICE in the same game.

I also remember the first time I saw Michael Owen enter the field as a young 17-year-old wunderkind.  In a preliminary game, Owen after subbing, receives a long pass, runs through 4 defenders then scoring one of the many spectacular goals he would make in his amazing career as an international footballer.  

Michael Owen would become my personal facorite player from then on, winning a Golden Boot trophy as the best player in the sport at the peak of his career in the early 2000s, and playing for Liverpool in the English Premier League and Team England as the best young forward of his time.  

The underrated French also won the 1998 World Cup, outplaying the vaunted Brazilian national team with Zinedine Zidane heading in the game winner after a grueling deadlock on the field.

Moar Football?!  Absolutely.

There are football leagues that run after the World Cup and your favorite striker, midfielder or defender still plays as deadly so don't fret about waiting for another 4 years to see action.  In the past, after the World Cup, players who played well in tthe tournament would explode into superstardom like England's Michael Owen.  Sadly, the following World Cup may have cost him his future as he was roughly handled during two forays and got injured in the game, nevertheless he scored against the eventual champion Brazil.  

"If I'd still been in one piece from the World Cup and gone through my career, what type of player would I have been? No doubt about it, if I hadn't had as many injuries I would have been the all-time leading scorer for England." says Michael Owen.  Brazil's Ronaldo and Ronaldiihno after winning it all in World Cup Japan-South Korea 2002, continued stellar careers as some of the deadliest power strikers in the sport.  

Don't Miss a Game You Idiot

The beautiful game brings all of us back to watch great players prove their worth.  You and I are just 2 of the billion or so 'crazies' tuned in for the best backseat driving opportunity ever for our favorite sport.  Let the world stop and give us a 3 hour respite of bullet time to enjoy what makes people great, unfair, ridiculous, unbelievable and united.  For every scheduled match in this year's World Cup 2014 in Brazil.


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