Monday, July 14, 2014

Final thoughts on the World Cup

It's over now and Germany gets to display the world's ugliest championship trophy for the next four years. You would think with the amount of money FIFA extorts rakes in from the World Cup they could afford a proper trophy. But, then again, whenever you start a sentence off with "you would think," it's just going to make you scratch your head.

The better team won yesterday - as painful as that is for me to write. This was not your father's German soccer team. This was a possession-oriented side that passed the ball on the ground and didn't rely on long balls and crosses to score goals. Dare I say it, they were actually fun to watch.

Argentina may have had the best player in the tournament but they suffered from out-dated tactics and an over-reliance on Lionel Messi. I don't care how spectacular a player he is, you can't design your attack on just putting the ball at his feet. The team had plenty of offensive weapons who were under utilized and seemed to be an afterthought. Messi's great, but he can't carry a nation on his shoulders. Having said that, the Argentine defense was unbelievable throughout the tournament (with the exception of the meaningless Nigeria game) but all it took was one defensive lapse to cost them the title.

While the football was great over the past month I do wonder what the long term costs of putting on the tournament will be for Brazil's poor and working class. The stadiums that were built across the country are not going to create any long term economic development. If you buy the hype and think otherwise, just drive down South Main by the football stadium and see if it looks any different than it did 15 years ago.

Football used to be the sport of the working class. But not so with the World Cup. It's a playground for the wealthy from around the world. Despite the billions of dollars the Brazilian government diverted from social programs, the vast majority of Brazilians couldn't afford to buy a ticket for an event they, in essence, paid for.

In four years Russia will host the World Cup and the logistical nightmare of stadiums that are thousands of miles apart. Unlike this year's tournament where all the games were played during our daylight hours, in 2018 we will once again have to deal with games airing in the middle of the night. I enjoyed this year's tournament but I know I won't be seeing much it in four years time.

Then, in 2022, the FIFA's most monumentally stupid idea will take shape. Thanks to rampant greed and corruption, the tournament will take place in the soccer hotbed of Qatar. Should it go forward the tournament will have to be moved to a cooler time of the year (all relative, of course) due to the blast furnace that is the Qatari summer. I'm willing to lay odds right now that we will see a football player burst into flames in the middle of a game. But then, hey, it's all about the money.

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