World Cup fever

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By Kabelo Mollo

They say one of the surest signs that you are ageing is time flying by. It feels like only yesterday we were umming and aahing as FIFA controversially handed Qatar the football world cup. Controversial because they dared remove it from the power houses of football in Europe.

I’m being facetious, but those Europeans genuinely believe that. In their view the world cup should in essence revolve around their perfect little first world cities with working infrastructure and impeccable human rights record. This is isn’t a take down of the splendour that is Europe. Merely a realisation.

I have resisted the temptation to write about the looming inauguration. Instead choosing to write about my first love, sports. I don’t know whether I’m still allowed to say that kind of thing now that I’m a married father of a terrorist for whom I am absolutely besotted. Either way this particular love called football has prime real estate in my heart. They don’t call it the beautiful game for nothing and in less than a month it will be a festival of football for 30 days straight! Now here’s the thing about me. I don’t actually like the world cup. It is in fact my view that it has no real place in football. Let me explain. Players play in leagues for 30odd games. We judge their ability on that. Their performances during domestic campaigns. Then all of a sudden comes a showpiece tournament, 7 games if a team makes it to the end and if a player performs there, suddenly he’s seen as a world beater? It drives me up the bend!

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I understand why FIFA needs a showpiece event. Between the revenue and the patronage they build, I get it, but it’s a tournament that’s only worthwhile in the latter stages. All of that notwithstanding, Qatar will be hosting the first Emirati world cup starting 20 November. I will be glued to my screen as I support first Brazils “Selecao” and then all five African teams taking part in the tournament. I will also lend my voice to the country of my birth Denmark as they no doubt perform admirably in the tourney. As it goes on I’ll start to support any team that plays against England and will look forward to Messi falling just short of his dream of emulating one of the greatest to ever do it, Armando Maradona. Every world cup follows this exact pattern for me. I won’t on this occasion be tipping France to won because they did last time. I suspect Brazil are going to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs…

Qatar getting the world cup is great in my view. It feels like when South Africa got it. Alright, Mzansi has a more palatable constitution for us liberal souls but, the Emirates deserve a chance at the spectacle. A one city world cup is a novelty I cannot wait to hear reviewed. I sincerely hope the locals will embrace the party like we did in 2010. The dynamics are different though, a party isn’t a thing for our friends over there, so it remains to be seen whether they do or not. I hope the higher ups will also adapt their views once they’ve seen that life can be a kaleidoscope of religions, sexual orientation and races.  Perhaps this is the first step, who knows?

The British who will arrive with a new a head of government, but more importantly new head of state for the first time in the modern era will quietly get on everyone’s nerves through their press who will frame their league as the best (is it?) And will have high hopes as a result of the Lionesses success in the Euros. As it happens, the Lionesses are easier to like than the three Lions so when the humbling eventually comes (and it will) we will all stand and applaud whomever delivers it.

I hope Maseru will also go football gaga for the next little while. It is one of my great bugbears in life that we don’t have a sports pub in the city. But I hope the existing restaurants have specials aimed at the world cup and that patrons understand that for the next little while us sports nus take precedent over them.

In closing I wish to reiterate my call to all attending the inauguration on Friday, as well as those in the diaspora to wear their national as opposed to party colours. Even for those not attending it would be nice if we all donned the national colours and showed that we are ready for renewal and revival!