The FIFA world cup kicked off on Thursday by Saudi Arabia and Russia in the latter’s capital of Moscow. For an entire month, the world will be gripped in the ecstasy of football. Thousands of fans will be attending the event in 11 cities across Russia with millions more joining in from all across the world through the power of television and the internet. A sport, loved so much, that people spend sleepless nights to watch their favourite teams play in this tremendous tournament.
1930 was the year when this quadrennial event began. The venue for this watershed moment in sporting history was Uruguay. A mere 13 countries participated; because crossing the Atlantic Ocean was a perilous task back then. It took almost 3 weeks to travel from Europe to South America. Even though it was a small tournament, the effect it had was a large one. In succeeding world cups, the number of teams participating to qualify for the tournament kept on increasing and the desire to lift the trophy even more so.
We have come a long way from the 1930s. The 2018 world cup has 32 countries competing for the title of world champions; and over 200 countries who participated in the qualifiers for the world cup. The excitement is not just for winning the cup, but also for hosting it! The hosts for the next two world cups have already been declared with Qatar hosting it in 2022 and United States, Mexico and Canada, jointly hosting the one after that in 2026 (Which is going to be the largest one ever, with more than 40 countries). Such is the craze for the FIFA world cup.
Even a country like India where cricket is considered to be the ‘unofficial’ national sport football too has a great following. Millions across India tune in to watch the various European clubs compete for the title in their respective leagues. India has one of the largest viewers of football in the world. With India hosting the U-17 World Cup, being victorious in the recently hosted continental cup and advent of Indian Super League, football too is rising up to the position which cricket presently holds. It will not be long before football becomes a ‘religion’ like cricket is in India. But what is it that makes this game just so wonderful to look at and play?
Football is the kind of game which keeps you at the edge of your seat. For those 90 minutes nothing else matters, just the football and shooting it into the back of the net. In the blink of an eye the tide can change. From being down 1-0 to leading the game by 2-1, the exhilarating moments and breath-taking movements on the pitch keeping even the non-followers glued to the screen. When you play the game, you feel what the players who are playing for their countries feel. The unparalleled adrenaline rush of getting past the defenders and kicking the ball into the back of the net. It is a feeling which all of us experience, whether it is playing or watching the game. Personally, I never used to watch football; but since the exciting final of the 2014 World Cup, I’ve become a follower of the sport. Making sure that I watch the important fixtures across all leagues if not following it religiously. Any chance I get to play, I make sure that I do. At the end of the match, regardless of whether you won or lost; watching or playing; those 90 minutes are just simply euphoric. If you meet someone who doesn’t speak your language, football will be your connection. That’s the reason why football is so popular across the globe. It brings the people closer, the countries closer and inadvertently, the world closer to each other.