The greatest show on earth has been kicked off in Brazil for the 32-team soccer World Cup that cost president Dilma Rousseff’s government $11 billion amidst not a little criticism. Brazil is, however, so soccer-mad that all the pre-event social unrest is likely to vanish as the beautiful game takes over the public consciousness. The world’s greatest talent has assembled after 64 years in Brazil and the world is wondering if the various jinxes of the years past will be defied. All the negativity tends to melt away when the skills of soccer players are on show. This year’s event pits Spain, with a fine record in the last six years, against Latin American giants Brazil and its star, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, Argentina with the extraordinarily talented Lionel Messi and Portugal with its incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo.
While Brazilians will bask in the glories of the game, the rest of the world, too, will be glued to TV sets with all the oohs and aahs of near-misses, breathtaking dribbles, acrobatic saves and unbelievable goals. The reason why football is the world’s favourite sport is that it is the quintessential boy’s game which requires nothing more than a spot of bare ground even if it is devoid of grass and a ball with four bricks marking out the two goals. From such bare minimum in the matter of “equipment” which puts to shame the games of rich kids like cricket with its need for a bat and ball of a special type, not to mention tennis, the initially barefoot soccer players learn their nimble-footed technique of weaving past opponents.
As the competition gathers strength, new stars will appear while the present-day heroes will either prove their mettle or begin the process of fading away. Although the matches will be telecast live in India well after midnight, there will still be a few hardy souls who will venture to stay awake and go to office bleary-eyed in the morning. Let the best team win.