Piece Written by Oliver Wilson: @Juice_Wilson
Less than a week to go and there is something rather special in the air.
This time next week the FIFA World Cup will be underway and the excitement that has been building within every football fan in the world will have well and truly boiled over as we approach the biggest of kick-offs. The greatest football tournament in the world will have started.
The anticipation for the start of the tournament appears a little different to normal, with World Cup fever’s already incorrigible grip taking hold of fans more so than can be remembered in recent times, although perhaps ironically less so in the host nation with much of the population split on spending such vast sums on hosting the tournament with poverty still rife in certain areas of the country.
FIFA knew they were on to a winner when they voted for Brazil to be the host nation for the 2014 competition.
It may not be the original home of football, but ask any fan where the spiritual home of the game is and many will point their finger to South America’s largest country. The country’s 1970 side is still considered the greatest team to ever win a World Cup, despite the dominance of Spain on the modern international scene, while the squad that showed up for Spain’s 1982 tournament still holds the crown for ‘best side to not raise aloft football’s golden trophy’. In Brazil, football, at both national and club level, is more than just a game.
It is that attitude that has helped rejuvenate the pre-World Cup excitement within the host nation once again.
South Africa’s hosting of the tournament in 2010 was a landmark for African football with it being the first time the World Cup had been held in Africa and, barring the hand of one Luis Suarez, the continent would have seen one of its teams in a semi-final for the first time.
Japan and South Korea’s tournament in 2002 was also a big step towards the game going truly global. The Asian market for football had been waiting for its chance to pounce on the benefits of hosting the World Cup after building a huge following of European football thanks to the influx of Asian stars moving to Europe’s top leagues.
But neither 2002, nor 2010’s tournament appeared to captivate the heart of the world, or at least the small isle that invented the sport for the world, like the tournaments of 1998 and 2006 in France and Germany did.
Both nations are considered ‘classic’ sides of international football; the legends of Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer paved the way for the modern greats of Zinedine Zidane and Lothar Matthaus amongst many others. We knew these nations; their club teams, their players, their approach to the game, and we could relate to their excitement about the tournament as supporters.
In that very same manner, we understand what this tournament means to Brazil as the host nation, what it means to football fans, the importance of the history behind the footballing culture in the country as well as the beautiful style of football played by Brazil that has nearly always excelled and excited on the international stage. We can get more excited because of that football tradition, which is why we find ourselves buying the sticker books, the preview guides and itching with anticipation for the 12th of June.
FIFA’s decision to take the next two tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively represents the similar leaps of faith they undertook to take the World Cup to Asia and Africa (if you ignore, for a moment, the corruption allegations made against those involved in the bidding process). Whilst spreading the global game is obviously beneficial for all involved, giving it back to the countries that helped make the game what it is today will always seem to be more desirable.
Whilst at the moment it may seem frustratingly slow until the eventual kick-off next Thursday, we should savour the build-up towards the start of this tournament as much as we enjoy the event itself, because unless the next two hosts are changed to Spain, England, Italy or Argentina, it’s unlikely that we’re going to get this excited about the build-up to a World Cup for a long time.