Eye of a Hurricane, Listen to yourself churn
I’m a little confused right now. No more Fiorentina, no more Serie A for almost two months. It’s too long, even by Italian football standards, to be the Christmas break. Also, there’s a World Cup just about to start. It must be summer then, right? Well no, a glance outside my window confirms that can’t be right either.
World Cup Fever, as football fans we’ve surely all experienced it. Right now, with the competition just days away, the temperature refuses to rise. Except in Qatar of course. The games should still take place in temperatures in the high twenties (the eighties if you’re a Fahrenheit fan).
However, the stadiums have been fitted with air-conditioning technology, although we do not have the official number of migrant workers who died during this work.
Government for Hire and a Combat Site
There has been widespread criticism of the decision to play the World Cup in Qatar. From how they won the right to host the tournament, with corruption and bribery no strangers to FIFA’s decision making, to the appalling treatment and conditions of migrant workers brought in to build the infrastructure, to the country’s human rights record, especially when it comes to their treatment of women and the LGBT+ community, and its crackdowns on freedom of expression.
FIFA, and all those who are supposed to take care of our game, have got a lot wrong down through the years, more wrong than right. It’s a testament to just how popular, just how loved football is that it keeps on going from strength to strength.
That’s the thing, they know how much we love the game, and that we’ll keep coming back for more no matter what changes they make. Have they possibly gone too far this time? It’s doubtful.
Team by Team, Reporters Baffled, Trump, Tethered, Cropped
With all those issues in mind, it seems petty to complain about the World Cup interrupting out normal season. It’s hard though, to escape the tournament’s poor timing. In this part of the world at least, we are accustomed to it beginning in Summer, a few weeks after the season ends.
That’s one of the reasons it was such a special occasion, the league finished up but instead of facing a long summer without any football, the World Cup would appear on our screens once every four years to give us a month-long feast.
Of course, many would argue that countries should not be denied the right to host the competition just because they are unable to do so in the traditional timeslot.
However, it may have a serious effect on teams’ performances, which could in turn damage the quality of the competition itself.
Feed it up a Knock, Speed, Grunt, No, Strength
Before each of the last six World Cups, the Serie A season ended at least 24 days before the tournament began. Before Italia ’90 it was 39 days and prior to USA ’94 there was a massive 46-day gap. This time, we have a six-day gap, that’s right, six days. In that period, some countries will play a warm-up game before heading off to Qatar.
How is this seriously seen as normal, as time enough for a squad of players to have together before playing on possibly the biggest stage of their careers? No break, no pre-tournament camp, no bonding time with the squad and the chance for the manager to work with the players.
Right now, this feels more to me like a glorified Nations League tournament rather than the event that I used to cherish and eagerly look forward to. Each of us will have our own memories tied to the World Cup, depending on your age and where you grew up.
The first one is always going to be special, which is why I feel sorry for kids who will experience Qatar 2022 as theirs.
That’s Great It Starts With An Earthquake
For me it was the month of June in 1986. A ten-year old looking forward to the evening after school when there would be, yet another game beamed all the way from Mexico into our living room in Ireland. Mexico ’86 opened my eyes to just how global the game truly was.
Where else could I possible have seen the likes of Canada, Iraq, Paraguay, or South Korea playing. It was also the first time I had seen the miracle that was Diego Maradona. For that alone, the 1986 World Cup will always hold a special place in my heart.
The excitement of my own country qualifying for Italia ’90 means that tournament too will always remain embedded in my mind. Maybe it’s just the fact that I was young and innocent, and no other World Cup could ever live up to those rose-tinted memories.
While for me it continues to be the beautiful game, to those responsible for running the sport we love, football has long since become more about business, money, greed, and politics (despite their insistence that everybody else leave politics out of the game).
A Tournament, A Tournament, A Tournament of Lies
Personally, I don’t think international football can compare with the passion of club football. Supporting your club is an everyday thing, you watch them play week in week out, and follow their progress daily. International games are obviously less frequent, which in one way should make them more of an event, something special, and for sure the World Cup is one of those rare occasions where they can create real excitement.
The fact that it takes place every four years (though that too will probably change) and after the regular season is over, made it something to cherish, to look forward to, one of those rare events when it feels like the whole world is watching.
But, having our club’s season come to a stop like this when we’re just getting started, is just another of the negative aspects of this World Cup in Qatar. On the one hand this may seem selfish, why should a country be ruled out of hosting the event just because of its climate.
Expecting the whole world to revolve around the needs of European football when this is a global event could be seen as discriminating against those in parts of the world where a summer event is just not feasible.
Then, you remember just where the tournament is being held, and why, and we’re back to square one.
Offer me Solutions, Offer me Alternatives, and I Decline
FIFA, and UEFA, are all about maximising profits, and if that means holding their top competitions on a more regular basis, and outside of their usual calendar slot, then so be it. Football has changed, and, it would seem, irretrievably so.
Domestic league fixture schedules are based around capturing a market on the other side of the world, with little thought given to those at home, who have always been there for their clubs.
They know all too well that no matter what they do, no matter how our game changes, we’ll all still be here. Most of us anyway, and those who are lost along the way can easily be replaced by an audience who only care about arguing over who is the GOAT, or who see a game’s XG as more important than the result itself.
The thing is, we are all complicit in this. We fork out our money for Pay TV all the while complaining about how it has ruined football. We’re all still following the sport, now more than ever, with our need for constant updates and news.
I know, I sound like the grumpy old man shouting into the wind, then spending my time writing and contributing to this endless information feed. That’s the point, I know how changed the game is, and in my opinion not for the better, and yet, I can’t give it up.
You Vitriolic, Patriotic, Slam Fight, Bright Light (Feeling Pretty Psyched?)
Which brings us back to Qatar 2022. Whether you watch or not, whether you choose to boycott or not, those are personal decisions. For most, it probably won’t be as clear cut as that. If your country is taking part, then it may be hard to ignore. Living in Poland I’m sure I will tune in to their games, and maybe as the tournament progresses, be swept away by the action.
We also have five Fiorentina players taking part, which will always give an extra interest in games we may otherwise have ignored. For now, with the opening game just days away, there’s little excitement, no eagerness for the competition to finally begin.
That, for someone who fell in love with the game while watching the World Cup, is a sign of where we are today.
World Serves its own Needs, Listen to your Heart Bleed
There’s an air of sadness, of nostalgia, at how they have managed to take that innocence and excitement away. All a part of growing up some may say, and although at one stage I may have thought that at least some things could remain constant, that we would always have football to fall back on, these days, I’m not so sure anymore.
But, for all the darkness, the corruption, the power grabbing, the politics, the money, the business, the commercialism, and the greed, somewhere, a small part of me, continues to try to see football as the beautiful game. It’s for that part of me that more than anything else, as we reach the World Cup kick off, what I feel more than anything else, is anger.
So, this one goes out to the one I love, this one goes out to the one I’ve left behind.