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February 19, 2019

The World Cup Rules, Maximum Respect!

How I wish I could dismiss the sheer soccer madness that will rule the planet for the next three weeks, but even I can't. Trust me I have tried. So, giving in to the greater power that is the World Cup, I threw my little bit into the mix and asked a very simple question on my Facebook Fan page. Imagine my shock to get up 22 hours later to see that the post had been viewed over 1.4 million times.

Eish. Did the page insights department at Facebook breakdown? No - the World Cup matters. It's that simple. I am a believer.

The day I knew it doesn't matter who you are, the World Cup takes over your mind and spirit, was when South Africa was awarded the rights to host the 2010 World Cup and Desmond Tutu said "I promise to buy all Fifa executives first-class tickets to heaven. But first I shall go outside and dance." Football touches everyone.

And while I am not a football fanatic and I won't pretend to be, I can't ignore the things that happen because of and around football. I was in the stadium in Jo'burg, Cape Town and Durban in 2010 and I must say, the World Cup truly disrobes people. I saw Presidents and dignitaries wave fists like common men in the stands from their VIP boxes.

Much as I try to understand what leads to the sheer madness and even tears from grown men about this sport, I have been cautioned time and time again to deal with the simple fact that football is a religion and the holy grail is the World Cup.

Listening to my Dad and his friends go on and on about the same, I've also come to realise that back in his day the holy trinity was Tigana, Platini and Giresse. Today it's Messi, Ronaldo and now Oscar (after that amazing performance for Brazil).


When the World Cup comes around, even how we mourn in football is different. The regular EPL game is always exciting and debate is always heated and loss is tough to take, but it lingers for a moment. But things change when it comes to the World Cup. Only for the World Cup would the University of Birmingham pore over data on heart attacks, strokes and road traffic injuries on the day of, and five days after, England's World Cup matches. The conclusion: Shoot-outs are not necessarily conducive to health. In 1998 in Britain, on the day England lost on penalty kicks against Argentina, the number of heart attacks rose by 25 per cent. I am awaiting the new results after that Italy defeat early yesterday morning.

The World Cup has powers that even nuclear war-heads and missiles lack — the performance in a World Cup stadium has the power to silence entire nations. I am told that when Alcides Ghiggia scored the winning goal against Brazil in 1950, the silence in that stadium was solid. He is then quoted to have said, in true arrogant football fashion, "Only three people have ever silenced 200,000 people at the Maracana with a single gesture: Frank Sinatra, Pope John Paul II and I."

The attention and focus we are all witnessing at the moment is as close to a world peace accord as we will ever get. A story is told in 2002 of an Israeli-Arab businessman who installed a TV set in a tent near his restaurant in the Jerusalem area and invited people to come and watch. As he said: "I thought, what is something that all Israelis and Palestinians have in common, and the answer was football!"

So, I'll continue to watch the twitter feed and where and when I can I will watch the game and if need be I will indulge in some debate or conversation about the World Cup, because truly there's nothing else like it.

It happens once every four years and for that moment, everyone speaks one language and I like it. Oh, and for those who are wondering if the heart-attacks in England increased over the weekend, mambo bado.

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