The true joys of the football World Cup

Published on Nov 20, 2022 08:25 PM IST

Sport is replete with hypotheses and opinions; football, the most popular global sport, more so; and the World Cup, the grandest of all football tournaments, a little a bit more.

True joy lies in the anticipation of what could happen rather than in the act of lifting the trophy. (Reuters) PREMIUM
True joy lies in the anticipation of what could happen rather than in the act of lifting the trophy. (Reuters)
ByHT Editorial

"The ball is round, the game lasts 90 minutes. Everything else is just theory.” Sepp Herberger, the German manager who pulled off the Miracle at Bern in 1954 — when West Germany beat the Mighty Magyars, the Hungarians who formed one of the greatest national sides in football history — is perhaps more famous for those words than he was for his exploits as player and coach. Sport is replete with hypotheses and opinions; football, the most popular global sport, more so; and the World Cup, the grandest of all football tournaments, a little a bit more.

So, when the round ball was kicked for the first 90 minutes as the World Cup 2022 kicked off in Qatar on Sunday, it sparked multiple theories and questions. Will the conditions in the tournament’s first Arabian sojourn favour the European brand of technical football, or will it be more conducive to free-flowing South American flair? Will the teams be able to settle into a rhythm given the tournament is in a small window in the middle of the club football season? Will it build of reputations and dreams in the manner that these national events have done in the past — more specifically, will it strengthen or weaken Lionel Messi’s case as the greatest of all time; will it allow Cristiano Ronaldo to prove his class in the middle of a blowout with Manchester Unit; will it put Neymar on the pedestal alongside the Brazilian greats of the past; will Belgium’s golden generation, led by Kevin De Bruyne, end its run as football’s what-could-have-beens; and will the England team rise up to the standard set by the world’s best league that it now hosts?

But in the middle of these seminal footballing questions of our times — each with multiple theories — lies the reality behind Mr Herberger’s remark. That on the pitch, in this most beautiful of sports, anything’s possible. That football is a celebration of possibilities rather than of inevitables. That in the World Cup, which introduces, players, nations, peoples, and cultures to one another, true joy lies in the anticipation of what could happen rather than in the act of lifting the trophy. So, get ready to soak in the excitement. For, who won is history; who didn’t is football.

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