It’s that time again; the work sweepstakes, the Coca Cola adverts and the sticker books are back. The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins in only a matter of days and I can guarantee that reading that statement brings about one of three reactions. 1) Excitement. You’ve waited for this for the last four years, your country has qualified and you can’t help but have a secret – perhaps naïve – confidence that this year is your year. 2) Hint of disappointment. This feeling will resonate with you if you are Scottish. Having not qualified for a major tournament since 1998, Scots are no strangers to watching an unrepresented World Cup, however football is football and for most it’s still a time to get involved. The sweepstake gives you a team to support and a little part of you enjoys watching your English friends as they wallow in self-pity after getting beat by teams 30 places below them in the world rankings (cough Iceland). And finally, 3) Indifference. You couldn’t care less; you have no intention of watching any of the matches and only know if your sweepstake team has won by your colleagues telling you at work the next day. All three of these reactions are valid, however if yours was the third maybe it’s time to rethink, is there more to the World Cup than just football? The answer to this is yes and here are some very good reasons as to why this year should be the year you finally see what all the fuss is about.
The first reason of persuasion is a simple one; witnessing world-class sport is special and this is as good as it gets. With returning stars, Messi, Ronaldo, both over the age of 30, this could be the last time we see these two battle it out on the world stage, and with both their teams in contention to do well, it’s not one to miss. If the underdog story is more your thing, you need not look further than Iceland. With a population of around about 335 000 – just over half that of Glasgow – Iceland is the smallest country to ever qualify for a world cup and having reached the quarter finals of their last major tournament who knows what could happen in Russia.
The next point is slightly more serious and proves that the world cup is not only about football. In the run up to most major world sporting events, there is controversy and the world cup is no exception. With many countries seeing Russia unfit to host the tournament due to anti-LGBT and racism within the country, it has not been an easy ride to the tournament. Political unrest in recent months between Russia and many western countries has also caused cries of outrage and even boycott. While this may not be the answer, it is important for the world to engage with these issues and watch Russia – perhaps with bated breath – in hope that for this time period differences can be set aside.
Finally, football is the most popular sport in the world. 1 billion people worldwide tuned in to watch the final of the 2014 world cup, with 3.2 billion views across the entire tournament. While these figures seem staggering, it is not just the quantity of fans that continues to impress but also the quality. Football fans, particularly when supporting their country are infamous for their passion. It is clear on their faces that nothing can beat the feeling when their team wins and nothing is more devastating than a loss. This just goes to show that during this one month every four years, the world comes together to witness something special and in 2018 a time when we as a country feel more disconnected from the world than ever before, what better way to celebrate unity. So, whether it’s to support your team, observe the messianic fans or just to behold the “Beautiful Game”, I urge you to grab a beer, sit down with family or friends, turn on the TV and watch a game of football.
-Laura Hannah, Sports Editor