Sports

World Cup Fever!

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I love sports. If you are a frequent visitor to this site you will know that is the case. The World Cup (which I have been watching and interested in since the event came to Chicago back in ’94 when my dad worked downtown) is one of the most exciting sports events to watch alone or with friends. I try to watch as many games as possible and it will be much easier to do that this time around as the contest is in Brazil. Brazil is in the same timezone as most of the eastern and Midwestern US so for once the games will be on during the afternoon and evening! No more staying up until 4am to watch a game!

My sister is a huge fan of football (soccer to the uninitiated) and plays the game herself. She is a defensive player and is obsessed with the Latin American teams and with Portugal. She is in love with Christiano Ronaldo. She, and I, are pulling for the underdog Ecuador team. We are both 1/4 Ecuadorian and have relatives in the nation so it is a family affair!

One thing that always does bother me, as a person who tries to work for, and keep abreast of issues relating to, the betterment of all people and social justice, is how much is spent on the game these days. Brazil has famously been trying to get the cup for years now and now that it finally has it has gone overboard: new stadiums in the middle of the Amazon and billions for repairs and security. Police have been surging into the Favelas (“slums”) where much of the urban population of Rio lives and have been “pacifying” them…in other words making them pretty and “safe” for all the rich American, European and Japanese tourists who will inevitably come to purchase the tickets that cost more than most Brazilians make in a month. Many people have taken to the streets to protest what many consider the waste of public funds on a competition that could easily be put on for less and still be a great show. Millions of people lack jobs, healthcare and transportation and the “socialist” government has decided that the public treasury would be better spent on shiny new stadiums that will be abandoned as soon as the show is over and the cameras are packed away.

What is the solution to this problem, and how should a viewer in the US, Germany or Algeria feel about this? That is for each of us to decide but I know that I think that the corrupt FIFA organization should be abolished in favor of a body of representatives chosen from the football communities of all the nations who take part in the tourney and the richer nations should contribute to a fund that will be used in whatever nation fairly gets the game. Also, existing facilities should be used and a set amount of tickets should be set aside at fair, affordable prices especially for the locals of the nation who are putting on the Cup. This may seem pie in the sky but change only happens when we embrace the seemingly impossible. And in my humble opinion the games in Qatar need to be canceled outright and moved to a new destination, I suggest Japan or the UK. 800 migrant workers at least have died building the stadiums in the middle of the Arabian desert that the absolute rulers of Qatar have decreed are necessary for a successful games. This is obscene and needs to be punished.

On a much lighter note…So who are you pulling for? Are there any match-ups you are really looking forward to seeing? I am especially excited about the Ghana vs US game and any game involving the home team.

I hope this Cup goes off without a hitch and that everyone has fun and is safe. I hope that the people protesting are not attacked or harassed by the authorities and that their message reverberates and maybe leads to changes to the FIFA system. I also hope that the US advance past the first group…unlikely though!

***

TEAMS PLAYING IN THE 2014 WORLD CUP (by group):

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Cote d’Ivoire, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, Korea Republic

***

The Opening Match between Host Nation Brazil and Croatia will be at 2pm Central and 3pm Eastern on US TV.

UPDATE

World Cup Day One Results:

Brazil defeated Croatia 3-1 in a really sloppy effort that found the Croat team doing its best to keep the momentum bought from an early Brazil own goal. The Referees, three Japanese and one Iranian,officiated and overplayed their authority from the start; near half a dozen yellow cards were awarded and a crucial momentum swinging penalty was given to the Brazilian team after a call that seemed dubious even to some of the Brazilian players. This lead to another goal in stoppage, a goal denied to Croatia by a rather bogus goalkeeper foul. Overall the main Japanese ref was to blame for most of this. Oh well. Neymar led with 2 goals, 1 the aforementioned unearned penalty followed up by a goal from  Oscar. Croatia’s only “offensive” production was a defense mistake on the part of the Brazilians; an own goal executed by an asleep at the switch Marcelo/ Oscar scored late into stoppage. Croatia was denied a goal that was a result of a botched save by Julio Cesar because one of the other players “jostled” the keeper. Another bad play by the lead Japanese judge. Tomorrow Mexico/Cameroon & Netherlands/Spain

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