The World Cup. It needs no introduction. This is the people’s game and this is the biggest party on Earth because it is the most simple and communicative sport on this planet.
This year seems bigger somehow. Perhaps, it is the increased lines of communication and the growth of 24 hour rolling news – even the legendary John Motson has a twitter page (http://twitter.com/worldcupmotty) as does Sepp Blatter.
Now, this is different. Everyone wants South Africa to do well as a host. This is Africa’s chance to shine so they say.
It looks set to be a tournament to remember that is for sure. Better than Germany I believe. But this isn’t just the pinnacle of the football calendar (where’s my wallchart? http://www.marca.com/deporte/futbol/mundial/sudafrica-2010/calendario-english.html). This isn’t just the release of a special edition Mars Bar with England flag packaging (although when Dubai advertising executives pick up on this they will muse over it like they discovered a new species).
This is the culmination of four more years of football purism that comes to fruition in a revolving tournament and this year it happens to be in the backdrop of immense beauty that is South Africa. Durban was a blast anyway but now the World Cup, the city is even better.
Journalists across the globe have descended on South Africa from every conceivable location and importantly the media spotlight for the qualified nations is even more intense with the traditional drove of media hacks surrounding their national teams.
But it’s the ones who care that I’m worried about. When this tournament is over they will still be in Zambia or Albania analysing their league structure or commenting on the next big thing to make their club’s first team. Journalists like Mark Gleeson ( http://blogs.reuters.com/soccer/tag/mark-gleeson/ ) have painstakingly covered African football for years and when everybody goes home he will still be there. The Brian Glanville’s, the Keir Radnedge’s – they are the ones that have ensured football journalists aren’t just there to knock down their national team’s stars a peg or two. These are real football journalists and these are the ones that uncover the diamonds that will be on show for the next month.
Anyway, there are some notable absentees who won’t be deafened by the vuvuzelas this summer. No Ballack, Walcott, Beckham, Ferdinand, Essien or Nani.
However, it is the ones who are going to be there and have gained a reputation with the national coaches that will be fascinating to watch. You know the ones....the names that get stuck in your head for weeks, months, even years down the line after a major tournament. Olarticochea, Burruchaga, Higuita, Recoba anyone?
We can all spot Messi now, but someone is going to make a name for themselves somewhere along the line for their team and I’d like to think I know a tiny bit.
Well, aside from ‘a one to watch’ or an uncut diamond I’d like to have a crack and predicting some scores before each game. It'll be a bit of fun and you lot won't predict as good I