It’s one long agonising wait for me – I still have to wait another 97 days for the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup to kick off in Qatar. The tournament is traditionally held in June and July every four years but because of the host country’s extremely hot summer months it has been switched to Nov 20 until Dec 18 this year.
Qatar is the first Arab state to host what is considered the biggest sporting event ever on the planet. I don’t about you all, but the World Cup to me is the greatest show on earth ever since the day dad introduced soccer or football – as it was popularly known back then – to me when i was six-year-old.
One fine afternoon in 1965, dad brought me to the Prisons padang in Sibu to watch him play. He was the left winger for his Jabatan Telekom team against PWD in the semi-finals. I can still remember vividly dad scoring two goals, but unfortunately he limped out 15 minutes later when he was hacked down by a bone crunching tackle.
Nevertheless, his two goals were enough to send PWD out of the competition. I learned from mum a few days later that dad’s team lost in the final to Police. My hero had to sit out the final as he didn’t recover in time from his knee injury.
Ever since then, 57 years later, I have been eating, drinking, sleeping except playing soccer. No other sport so far has captivated me or captured my imagination. And no sport is as enjoyable and satisfying to watch as soccer.
I have placed small bets on World Cup matches. I won some and lost some.
What really got me hooked on soccer, the beautiful game, was a documentary reel – which dad brought home – of the 1958 World Cup final between Brazil and Sweden at Stockholm. The Selecao (nickname of the Brazilian squad) easily defeated the hosts 5-2 with an impressive 17-year-old Pele contributing two goals.
Ever since then I said to myself that Brazil would always be my team no matter how they performed. I had always stayed loyal to the Salecao through thick and thin, even when they exited in the early stages of the tournament. I am not one who would adopt another team. I swim or sink with Brazil!
The 7-1 semi-final 2014 World Cup defeat for Brazil against Germany, their worst ever defeat and their first on home soil in more than 30 years, was heart-breaking. The Samba boys (Brazil) had become sambal. I was shellshocked for a few weeks.
Another tournament which Brazil made an early exit was the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
It was the second round group stage match and Italy, reinforced by their star striker Paolo Rossi, scored a hattrick to defeat a star-studded Brazil 3-2. The result sent Brazil home, and Italy went on to beat Germany in the final.
I think the 1982 Brazil squad was the country’s finest not to have won the cup. That team had legends like Zico, Socrates, Falcao, Junior, Toninho, Serinho, Eder and Oscar.
Many soccer commentators think too that the 1982 squad was among Brazil’s finest ever to have appeared in the World Cup. Of course the 1970 squad was reputedly the best ever produced by Brazil. That team had Pele who contributed one goal in the 4-1 defeat of Italy in the final.
Being a fanatical Brazil fan, I have a collection of documentaries featuring their squads. I was offered quite an attractive amount by a friend who is also a Salecao diehard fan, but no way Jose. Not even for a million ringgit.
With five titles, the Salecao is the most successful squad and also the only nation to have participated in every World Cup finals. Italy and Germany have four titles each. Defending champion France, and past champions Argentina and Uruguay have two titles each. England and Spain have one each.
In the 21 tournaments since 1930, 79 nations have appeared at least once and 13 of them have made it to the final match, and eight have won the cup.
Six nations have won the final as host, namely Italy, England, Uruguay, Germany, France, and Argentina. And two countries have lost the final as host – Brazil and Sweden.
Come November, not everyone will be excited. For employers the World Cup will cause a serious headache.
According to a survey, the 2010 tournament in South Africa caused economic output and productivity worldwide to slump. The UK, for example lost $7.3 billion in decreased economic output and American companies lost 10 minutes of productivity per day.
It is estimated that 80 per cent of the world’s population tunes in to watch the ‘world’s greatest show on earth’. When workers stop working, employers lose money!
Before I sign off let me share a rehashed joke. It goes like this:
“A Korean asked God when Korea would win the World Cup. God replied, in a 100 years. The Korean cried as he would not be able to see that happening in his lifetime. Then a Japanese asked God the same question. When God said in 200 years, the Japanese wailed. Finally, a Malaysian asked God when Malaysia would win the World Cup. This time, God cried!”
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.