First signs of a truly Arabian World Cup

Updated on Nov 25, 2022 08:42 AM IST

Though the tournament has been played in Asia before, in Japan and South Korea in 2002, this is its first Arabian adventure. Football in each continent, in each country, at every World Cup, is different.

Germany v Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar, November 23, 2022 (REUTERS) PREMIUM
Germany v Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar, November 23, 2022 (REUTERS)
ByHT Editorial

An upset is the lifeblood that nurtures sport. It is what makes sport as enthralling as film, books, and music, but with an added punch. It’s a reminder that sport is art unscripted; played on a stage where every motion may be practiced, but where anything’s possible. Why else would fans stay up night after night to watch two groups of players slug it out across a court, a pitch, between two sets of poles? Watching human excellence unfold before your eyes is all very well, it’s the suspense of what might happen that keeps them hooked. The first week of the 2022 Fifa World Cup has served as another reminder of sport’s glorious uncertainty. Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st, beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina, two-time champions. Japan, ranked 24th, stunned powerhouse Germany, four-time world champions. Unheralded Canada had Belgium’s golden generation on the ropes for most of the 90 minutes. While each World Cup has its share of upsets, this felt different.

Though the tournament has been played in Asia before, in Japan and South Korea in 2002, this is its first Arabian adventure. Football in each continent, in each country, at every World Cup, is different. The style and the pace vary according to the conditions, and it’s too early to ascertain what Qatar 2022 will throw up. It’s also true that the first week is always the toughest for all teams — not enough time to get used to playing with each other, to acclimatise, and to get into the rhythm of the tournament. But the way the Saudis pressed Argentina high, the way the Japanese outran the Germans on the flanks, and the way the Canadians cut through the Belgian midfield with blinding pace were indications that world football may be witnessing the first signs of a churn. That we may truly be at the start of a uniquely Arabian World Cup, and that no matter the controversies over how we got here, the drama of sport may eventually conquer all.

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