No matter what you might think about soccer as a game, there is something dramatic, exciting and seductive about the FIFA World Cup. Of course there is the game itself – and patient readers of this blog know I am something of a fan – but there is also the bigger narrative of international encounters and intercultural understanding. There’s simply nothing like it, not even the Olympic Games provide this kind of story; particularly because the honours are spread much more evenly in football, and the results are much less predictable. And also, where can you have a global game with fans in every continent in which the United States are underdogs and China doesn’t feature at all?
Of course, courtesy of Thierry Henry’s famous hand ball Ireland isn’t there. For a while I thought that would kill my interest in the whole thing, but of course I’ve come around and am glued to the games. And who am I backing? I haven’t made up my mind yet. There needs to be an heroic story in there somewhere, of courage overcoming the odds, of romantic adventures. I’m not sure yet where that will take me. That’s part of the beauty of these games.