‘Angels Bending Near the Earth’: The Lydians’ 2022 Christmas concert
November 29, 2022
2nd Sunday of Advent (A)
November 29, 2022

World Cup, middle east style

By Nth Degree

Action. Controversy. Drama. Emotion. Passion. Excitement. Skill. Humour. Politics. Religion. The only thing missing is sex. Hmmm…

What else but the FIFA World Cup!

I’m back. I never left. I’m just invited to ‘write something, nah’ by the editors every four years. Yes, every four years – screams and shouts of delight and wonder as goals are scored!

Every four years – tears, lamentations and grinding of teeth take place when the team you support gets licks. Oh, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat…and a confused feeling when your team draws in the group stage.

Yes, I’ve been watching the 2022 World Cup from day one, a little over a week ago (November 20). Something is different though. It’s November-December. Usually its June-July. What gives?

It’s being held out in the Middle East, in Qatar’s winter season. Isn’t that just great! WORLD Cup, meaning, held in various places around the globe and not only in so-called Western countries?

Cue the controversy. ‘Sports washing’ you say? And the western media wag their fingers. The host country is said to have a dismal human rights record with respect to migrant labourers, women, and the LGBTQ community. And what about the environmental costs of hosting the tournament in the region as well as the persistent allegations of bribery between the Qatar bid committee and FIFA executives. Truth? Half-truth? Innuendo? Who knows. No beer being sold in the stadium – this ‘Bud’ is not for you!

Let’s wait for 2026, when Canada, USA, and Mexico will be co-hosts of the World Cup. Let’s wait and see how they’ll do that (who gets to host the final? I suppose USA because they’re better than Canada at playing ‘soccer’?) and if there will be any of these political and social issues.

What’s that scripture passage again, Father…take the toothpick out of your mouth first? Or the plank out of your eye?

But let’s talk about the games! I’m upset over all the upsets in this group stages (I’m writing this as the final round of group matches begin).

Saudi Arabia beat Argentina – Messi, really? Morocco beat Belgium – What going on De Bruyne? And, I dare say it because this is the team I support since Trinidad and Tobago will likely never get there again – Japan beat Germany! ‘Debakel-Start für Deutschland!’ screamed the headline in Bild, a German daily.

What’s going on? Why are the more established football nations being put to the sword by these lesser-known nations? Blame it on globalisation in the football world.

More players from other countries are playing in the top leagues in Europe, where all the money is. Look at the English Premier League, for example, where you have to look with binoculars to spot an Englishman on the field. Plus, top-ranked coaches from the developed countries have helped to improve the tactics of other nations. Globalisation, I tell you – it’s beginning to bear fruit.

Okay, yes, you will get the odd score line, Spain 7 Costa Rica 0, and England 6 Iran 2. But those are but aberrations. I blame it on first match jitters for Costa Rica and Iran.

Because the majority of teams are playing at such a high level, the games have been exciting. Heart-stopping, nerve-wracking even. Did you see the great comeback by Cameroon versus Serbia? And the drama of the South Korea versus Ghana? Don’t talk about Wales versus Iran!

So before I run out of space, we’re getting ready for the ‘Round of 16’ which begins this weekend. Knockout. Win you’re in, lose and you’re heading home. So farewell Qatar, Canada and all the rest from the group stage. Next four years, if you qualify?

Onward France, Brazil, Netherlands, Spain and hopefully, Germany? I live in hope! (Please, Lord, let them beat Costa Rica…)