The potential of the World Cup

Some say this World Cup series will be remembered for its great revelations and equally great disappointments. Others mutter darkly of fixed matches. At any rate, it is certain that it will go down in history as the first truly globalized World Cup. For the first time in its seven-decade history, what was originally a European creation showed itself to be just as popular in every corner of the globe – from the USA to East Asia, where until recently, there was no tradition of soccer. A global style of football, chiefly characterized by its universality, its competitiveness and the subjugation of the imagination, appears to have brought the various national schools down to the same level. The rampant commercialization and barrage of allegations recall the words of warning uttered by Pierre de Coubertin, who predicted that money would prove to be the seed of soccer’s decline that «if we are not careful, will wither our newborn hopes.» But reality is never a one-way street. This year’s World Cup was also characterized by a counterattack by nations against global leveling. Hundreds of millions of people around the world, from the leaders of the most powerful nations down to the inhabitants of the shanty towns of Latin America, worked themselves into a frenzy over their national heroes and shared in their triumphs and defeats. Despite the increasing influence of money, vested interests and television, soccer continues to offer billions of people the lost paradise of community and collectivity, in a world which for some time has made individualism and alienation its banners. Those who have called soccer the most democratic sport in the world are not wrong. It’s a sport which does not require that its players be superhuman creations of the pharmaceutical industry in order to succeed, a sport that allows even ragged children from the favelas of Brazil and the alleyways of Senegal to dream. In short, it is a sport that continues to remind us that another world, more open to talent, imagination, real feeling and real creativity, is always within reach – as long as we believe in it.

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