Nothing makes the orb that is our planet look and feel more like a global village than the FIFA World Cup. The first arrivals at the 81,006-capacity Luzhniki stadium in Moscow began hours before the ball started rolling, a mammoth three billion around the world watched. As the host Russia took on the better-ranked Saudis in the opening match, the overall refurbishing of its currently tattered image was clearly the aim.
But Russian football fans, not exactly known for their sporting gentlemanliness, too would have to behave for the World Cup 2018 show to turn into a game-changer for Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin. “We’re opening our country and our hearts,” he said, striking the right note before young soprano diva Aida Garifullina and pop star Robbie Williams took the stage to replace the ‘Waka waka’ tune (still ringing in our ears).
In its equitably distributed frenzy and fanfare, the football World Cup makes the globe appear flat and equal. Never mind if India has no World Cup material team yet, in Kolkata and Kochi or in the Northeast, the fever is running high. In Switzerland, the authorities have relaxed honking hours to allow fans to express their joy and disappointment. Will Brazil, France, Spain or Belgium wrest the trophy out of Germany? The punters in India are backing Brazil and Argentina over the Germans (in the rest of the world, logic rather than emotion seems to move the stakes!).
But never before has the tournament looked so open as it does this time. Belgium, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, England, Tunisia or Portugal, any of them may emerge as the dark horse. Will Messi or Ronaldo create history and clinch legendary status for themselves? Or will the other stars in the firmament Neymar, Isco, Mohamed Salah, Wilfred Ndidi, Mesut Ozil, Son Heung-Min make history? Son’s team, South Korea, is the Asian favourite. Well, in that finite goal, the possibilities are infinite. In short, the 32 teams are expected to give the world a rollercoaster ride—riveting, edge-of-the-seat moments the next one month.