I have friends who are political junkies who count the days between each Presidential election. That’s four years of waiting filled with competitive yet non-athletic bluster, bloated hypocrisy, and stagnant idealism, not including the Congressional races. But I do know how they feel, because the cruel disappointment and heartbreak forced onto me by twenty-one years of loyalty to Newcastle United FC, fractured Yugoslavian teams, and U.S.A. soccer is lifted every four years with the angelic arrival of the holiest of holies in all of sport: the World Cup. Somehow, before, during, and after this soccer celebration, politics, both governmental and athletic (FIFA is no secret to controversy) always seem to pervade the social and cultural unification of the games no matter the host country. In 2014, inside the fascinating world of Brazil, this impending party-crasher will be no different.
Government corruption, political demonstrations, martial law, election scandals, destructive floods, terrorist bombings, and kidnapping. These issues are everyday and commonplace around the globe. For twenty-five days this summer, however, these same problems currently presenting hardship in nations represented within the Cup will briefly stand aside to the enthusiasm, optimism, and allegiance of the Beautiful Game. Floods and landslides in the Balkans will further motivate Croatia and first-timers Bosnia-Herzegovina. The mass kidnapping and subsequent bombings in Nigeria should emphatically inspire the Super Eagles. Russia will undoubtedly be playing harder than ever in proud fashion to prove they can adequately host the next Cup. Yet it is Brazil and it’s society’s turbulent clashes over the expenditures of hosting both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics versus the lack of basic human social programs that face the toughest scrutiny. If ever the host country was to win it all at home, the Canarinho would be wise to do it this year. Teams representing countries in the news, especially negative news, tend to play harder with more passion and a greater sense of urgency. That’s when timeless moments occur and with one kick, an exhale or a blink, the entire conscience of an impoverished nation can be instantaneously and collectively transformed into pure hope and bliss. This is the power that gives names to snapshots such as “The Hand of God,” “Goal of the Century,” and the “Miracle of Bern.”
It seems that each day the news is consistently full of sorrow rather than smiles, but teams such as Nigeria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and flamboyant host Brazil will all be trying to erase the crushing adversity pervading their societies (as of this post) for at least a brief ninety minutes. And every team desires as many successive ninety minute chances as possible, for each match pulls them one step closer to lifting not only the World Cup trophy, but glory for their country and symbolic spiritual triumph over the perpetual numbness of suffering. So soak it in as much as possible I say, it goes by quickly. Samba till you just can’t stand up anymore.