In this modern world in which we dwell it has become far easier to dismiss than to believe. Faith is at an all-time low and traditions that have stood for hundreds of years are now being called into question. Then every four years, there comes an event which restores our faith. From the ashes of the shameless self-promoting, money driven universe of domestic football rises, like a majestic phoenix, the World Cup.
Over the past decade or so we have seen supporters’ blind and unwavering faith in football wane. Disenchanted by the overpriced tickets, the hundred-million-pound signings and the inability to relate to the modern footballer, a huge section of football fans have been left feeling alienated and removed from the game they love so much. And when you strip away the slow motion, Coldplay sound tracked montages and the overhyped build up to a game significant only in the sense that it may be the difference between a club receiving £200million and £250million come the end of the season, what are you left with? A league that would, in truth, struggle to stand up on its own two feet if relying solely on it’s on footballing substance.
Then along comes the World Cup. No price tags, no manager mind games, no transfer sagas, no artificiality, just pure football.
Can anyone remember a Premier League match over the last two or three seasons that can compare to the Group B opener between Spain and Portugal? Can anyone recall a last 16 match from any competition that was as utterly enthralling and as technically outstanding as the first knock-out match between France and Argentina? Players playing not for their pay check or for their big money move but for the sheer love of representing their country on the biggest stage of them all. The scenes from fans and players alike in the face of both victory and defeat contain emotion unlike anything that club level football could ever provide.
If Iran v Morocco had been a Premier League match last season, it would have been unlikely to attract many viewers, despite the broadcasting companies’ no doubt lavish attempts to promote the game beyond all reason. But what a game, what drama, what history for both these countries. No amount of synthetic promotion could ever have lived up to the substance that this match provided. No amount of feigned hype could possibly match the last minute dramatics of this hugely significant game of football for two football loving nations.
It is not just religiously fanatic football fans that enjoy the World Cup so, a peak audience of 23.6 million was recorded during England’s last 16 match against Columbia, meaning that over a third of the entire country were glued to their TV screens to watch the Three Lions secure their first penalty shoot-out victory in World Cup history.
You can keep your billion-pound television rights deals and your parachute payments. You can keep your super-agents and astronomical wage bills. Because while we may succumb once again to the fleshy delights of the Premier League, in four years’ time there will again be another World Cup to remind us what this game really means. When you take away all the benefits and comfort of being a professional footballer and replace them with the weight of a nation, through the cracks we begin to catch a glimpse of why we all fell in love with this sport in the beginning. The World Cup is football in its purest form and that is why we all love it.