The world witnessed France kissing the World Cup once again as the kings of football.
The vibrance of youth, accurate planning, undying longing for victory and team strength that transcends boundaries - the victory of France is being celebrated in different countries. The team of France is the new face of Europe which presents an eve of joy that cuts across continents. After Beckenbauer, Didier Deschamps has created history by remaining firm outside the ground with determination and leading the group of youth towards eminence; by producing new and key players such as Griezmann and Mbappe and by shattering the dreams of Croatia which set out to create history.
The World Cup that has come to its ceremonial end in Moscow is also one which Russia can be proud of thanks to its excellence and perfection in organization and hospitality. The event concluded marvelously without giving room for any complaints and by bringing elation to everyone. Russia’s name has certainly been inscribed along with those who organised great world cup matches.
What made the venues of the 21st World Cup stand out was the victory of set piece goals of total football over the sporting excellence of individual charisma. While France, Croatia, Belgium and England fully embraced total football, those who turned up with unmatched skills lost their shine before them. The world also witnessed in Russia, the amazing rise of ‘smaller teams’ such as Sweden, Senegal, Japan, Iceland, Mexico, Iran, Korea and Morocco. The football spring which bloomed in Russia also made irrelevant the analysis reducing football of Latin America as graceful, Europe’s as planning proficiency or that of Africa as robust spectacle all attributing soccer styles to continents. Africa’s strength, Europe’s style and Latin America’s beauty have all wonderfully converged into the merits of France and Belgium. Countries like Uruguay and Brazil weaved tactics on the ground by following the European style as well. Even otherwise, wouldn’t it be inane to confine the styles to different nations in an era when club football dictates sporting excellence?
If football has ever shocked and stunned the world, it was never by the graceful game alone, but by kicking every socio-political conflict beyond the goal line. Similar to shaming Hitler and Stalin in history, the playground challenges, and mostly defeats, the racial and political supremacist tendencies even during modern times. The World Cup in Russia has bid adieu by strongly holding on to the political history which is embedded in the very genetic makeup of football. In a way, the World Cup held in Russia was one of jubilation by the refugees and immigrants. No other world cup might have ended by bringing so much pride to the immigrant communities. The blood and sweat of the refugees and the black races have been integrated into the sporting excellence in the European countries. Russia 2018 also showed us how the far right wing politics in Germany eroded the strength of the German team. It was the team director himself who condemned Turkish players Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan who were subjected to racist allegations and whose loyalty to the country were questioned for visiting Erdogan. When Romelu Lukaku scored a goal that was one against racism ingrained in Belgium where diversity in language and race live together like a clear rainbow. The hand gesture by Xherdan Shaqiri in the excitement of victory against Serbia provides salvation to all the repressed people in Kosovo who were humiliated in racist attacks. Undoubtedly, football is not merely a game, but a cultural process with political content as well.
Iceland is a country which imparts a lesson to India that if there is clear planning and long-term programmes, India too will be able to send a team to the World Cup. The real crisis our country faces is lack of imaginative vision and planning to nurture talent. In the first place, the country should have plenty of small playgrounds where talent should be spotted while young. At the same time, providing small parks will enable adults to recapture the social interactions they miss. There is no better place than playgrounds for children to keep on playing and imbibe wholesome lessons of collective social living. The football turf is not a lifeless expanse marked by white lines, but a scene of exercise that radiates humanism and societal living.