There is something profoundly beautiful about the World Cup. I don’t spend a lot of time following international football – forgive me, I’m English. Of course, I, like everyone else in my home nation pay attention only to the big events. We watch the European Championships, the World Cup, the qualifiers and even England friendlies, if only the latter two to moan about how dismal and uninspiring we are whilst we await Stoke vs. Hull on next week’s Super Sunday. Anyway, I always found the big international tournaments enjoyable, maybe the novelty of not paying much notice in the intermittent years made them more special, who knows? But it wasn’t until this year’s tournament in Brazil that I realised just how special the World Cup really is.
It’s a simple concept really. 32 nations sending 23 players to one country to kick a ball around a patch of grass for four weeks. We all watch, we all enjoy then we go back to the sustenance of league football straight after. However, when this basic idea is pulled together, it sparks off something quite unbelievable.
One billion. That is the estimated viewership for this year’s final. It’s prodigious that so many people are encapsulated by the spectacle of it all. Of course, the World Cup isn’t the only sporting event to do such things. The Olympics, as a prime example, too captures a worldwide audience, but this is different. There are few instances of simultaneousness in the World Cup, meaning for ninety minutes, Honduras and Ecuador and Croatia and Cameroon are the centre of the world, and with the greatest of respect, these four nations don’t always carry the greatest global presence.
What too is special about the World Cup’s engulfing appeal is its ability to transcend virtually everything. People of all races, genders, ethnicities, sexualities, religions and backgrounds come together to enjoy this four week footballing festival. Plenty of people I know don’t give a thought about football except for these four weeks where they’re actually fairly engrossed in the action too. You’ll find non-football fans just as entranced by Tim Cahill’s wonder-strike or Neuer’s sweeper-keeper spectacular as an away day regular.
The World Cup is like the best drama on television, chock full of underdog stories, upsets and moments of brilliance. Who foresaw Spain and Brazil getting pasted by the Netherlands and Germany? Who predicted Costa Rica to shame three former world champions in the ‘group of death’? Who predicted the USA to teach the rest of the footballing world a lesson in passion?
What’s really beautiful about the World Cup is it’s communal embrace. When England bowed out, after such a lacklustre display, my interest in the tournament never waned. I found Colombia’s infectious rhythm endearing, Chile’s gut and style seductive and Argentina’s conservatism exhausting – and I ‘rooted’ based on that. That’s the funny thing about the World Cup, you don’t even need to be involved or even invited to enjoy it – just ask the Welsh or the Scots. It’s a very special four week window for the world’s greatest sport, the world’s most passionate fans and some of the world’s proudest nations to put it all on the line for glory – and if yours doesn’t, you simply sit back and enjoy the profoundly beautiful ride.