Friday, December 15, 2017

United in football

Express editorial logo436

Mark Fraser

It is official. World Cup fever has broken out across the world, sweeping up Trinidad and Tobago into its feverish embrace. The beautiful game may not be a panacea for all our troubles but it does put a spring in our steps and lighten our hearts as only this sport can.

Having our Soca Warriors in the World Cup finals was truly special in 2006 but not being among the final 32 teams has never interfered with our passion for football’s prized glory.

From today and throughout the next 30 days, the world will be at one in its focus on the 64 matches scheduled to kick off in Brazil, the country that has given the world the great Pele and generations of world-beating champion teams. Thanks to the exclusive coverage by our sister station TV6, Trinidad and Tobago will take its place among the global audience when the first ball of the World Cup’s 64 matches is kicked off in the opener between hosts Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo.

When it comes to football fervour, no other sport can compete and when it comes to tournaments, nothing rises to the global popularity of the World Cup. In tiny corners of the world, from the most depressed communities to the best-equipped arenas, football is played and pursued with the passion of religion.

The road to Brazil 2014 has not been without its challenges, both to host nation Brazil and tournament owner/organiser, FIFA. Down to the wire, there were doubts about whether the 68,000-seat New Corinthians Stadium would be ready for today. To the relief of all interests, it has been declared World Cup ready for an opening event that Brazil promises will rival all that has gone before.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been criticised for not having the football acumen of her predecessor, the highly popular Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Battling with the challenge of hosting an event, estimated to have cost Brazil $70 billion during a time of economic slowdown, the World Cup has divided Brazil sharply. The situation has not been helped by the dramatic criticisms from top FIFA officials over Brazil’s lack of preparedness. Even as the World Cup gets ready for kick-off, it is not clear whether all the elements are in place to deliver an outstanding success.

FIFA itself has many issues to contend with, not the least of which is its global reputation which has been severely tarnished by evidence and allegations of corruption. Even now, the future of World Cup 2022 in Qatar remains in doubt.

But for football fans those issues are now relegated to the status of side-show. From today until July 13, the only thing of importance is the action on the field.

We join all Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the world in wishing World Cup 2014 great success. May the best team win, and may Trinidad and Tobago take the field in World Cup 2018 in Russia. Ole´ Ola!