Baddiel and Skinner may have droned on about “Football coming home” years ago but in reality Brazil is the country synonymous with the beautiful game and especially the World Cup. England may have put down the origins of the game (by a gang of toffs and elitist Victorians) but it was the South Americans that gave the game skill, rhythm and beauty and it was the working class hordes that embraced and emancipated the sport.
It is no coincidence that football has left behind the likes of cricket, tennis and rugby in world popularity. Whereas the old establishment and class related sports have hung on to a degree of snobbery and exclusivity, football attracted and welcomed all, thanks in main to its inclusivity and simplicity. So in many ways Brazil is the sporting and social home of football and is truly coming home in June 2014.
Many like to argue whether or not the Copa Mundial is competing at the highest level of football, feeling that it has maybe been superseded in recent decades by the Champions League, however what is not in doubt is the fact that more people will be watching the tournament this summer than any other sports event in history. You can forget the Olympic games and its show of wealth and nationalism through niches sports, or the American only Superbowls or World Series, the World cup is tops. Although it is hard to argue that the wealthiest of nations generally participate in the WC (China, India and the Arab states being noticeable absentees) other poorer countries regularly attend and compete in Fifa’s grandest tournament. The unique qualifying system provides a degree of fairness to poorer nations and levels the playing field.
This summer when FIFA bring their grand exercise in corporate greed to the Brazil everybody will be watching, even those who hate the game. Even the Yanks and the Ozzies have fallen in love with football and its popularity is gaining on their old historical games.
5 African nations, 4 Asian, 4 Central American, 6 South American and 13 European nations will make up the 32 best teams in the world with only Oceania failing to win any representation (largely because they are all gash, apart from New Zealand). There are a couple of surprising non-qualifiers: Sweden, Denmark, Paraguay and sleeping giant Scotland but in the main all the best teams have qualified and all the best players will be on show (minus Ibra, Strootman, Eriksson, and Lewandowski).
Despite being a huge World economy Brazil still has some desperate poverty so it is not surprisingly to see the Brazilians protesting and rioting on their streets. Although Brazil is fanatical football country it will smart to see such lavish spending while much of their surroundings is desperate and dangerous. It seems as if this “bread and circuses” ploy has failed to win over the Brazilian public and much more public disobedience and opposition will follow in next few months (personally I hope that it will be restricted to the metropolises in the south, not for any fear of my safety but I imagine it will wreck travelling arrangements pre and post-match…selfish, I know).