World Cup 2018

World Cup Madness

As a football-loving Englishman, you may be surprised that I am far more interested in the club I support, (Arsenal), than following international football, (England). My club enthrals (and infuriates) me for nine consecutive months of every season, while my country’s exploits on the football field are much more sporadic.

However, that changes every four years, when 32 nations from all parts of the world, come together over a four-week period, with the World Cup trophy the carrot, dangling provocatively in front of every player of every country that has qualified.

My first experience of the World Cup was in 1962, when I recall listening to the scratchy BBC commentary from Chile on the radio, which described in detail England’s glorious failure.

However, in the next tournament just four years later, I watched a bit of history, as England, using home advantage to the maximum, beat West Germany 4-2 in the final to win the World Cup for the first, and only time. As a 14-year-old, I naturally assumed that England would go on to win it every time, and be world champions in perpetuity.

Sadly for me, and millions of England supporters, it was not to be. In 1970, England maybe had a better team than 1966, but decided to turn a 2-0 lead in the quarter-finals against West Germany into a 3-2 defeat. Four years later, England didn’t even qualify for the month-long tournament. Since then, almost every World Cup campaign has started with huge expectations, but ended in dismal defeat.

But come this once-every-four-year gathering, all us English football-lovers plonk ourselves in front of the screen and watch every match if we can. My son and I watched the first game in this 2018 World Cup in the pub – it was the hosts, Russia, playing Saudi Arabia. We have little time for both countries, and certainly little knowledge or interest in their football. But there we were, with others, watching Russia against Saudi Arabia. The whole match. Madness.

If our country isn’t playing, it’s a great British trait to support the underdog. So when a powerhouse of international football plays a minnow, it’s the weaker team we support. And there have been some great giant-killing results in the 88-year history of this tournament. Maybe none more so than back in 1950, where the mighty England, then considered to be the best post-war team, lost to the part-timers of the USA, decades before there was even a recognised American league. (I put that one in, in case Dean wasn’t aware of it.) So again, we watch a game of football between two teams that we don’t care about, but because it’s David v Goliath, in the World Cup, we do. Madness.

So here we are in 2018. For us three bloggers, there is no USA, who failed to qualify for the first time since 1986; the hosts Russia, who have unbelievably reached the quarter-final stage despite being the lowest-ranked nation; plus England, who have an unusually young team and have also started well.

When England’s inevitable disastrous exit from the tournament happens, I shall continue to support Roger Baraeach and every underdog in the matches that follow. When there are no minnows left, then I shall choose a team I want to win, and of course, watch the whole match. From start to finish. Even though I have no interest in either team. Utter madness.

Roll on 2022!




World Cup madness 

Football has always been Russia’s achilles heel: at the World Cup, we’ve never showed anything serious; the best thing was to get into the semifinals in 1966 in England. Funny, it was the same year as England won the trophy on the home soil and never repeated that dream ever since. 

The funny side of it is that in Russia people say: we’re such a big country, how come we can’t find just eleven people to play decently? Unlike ice hockey, we still can’t find these mysterious eleven. I know in England there has been a lot of expectations for the national team to once again win the World Cup. But great players, such as Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, David Beckham, Michael Owen and John Terry couldn’t deliver the final outcome, though several times they’ve been really close to it. I believe the England football team is just cursed when it comes to penalty kicks during World Cup or Euros (against Germany in 1990 and 1996, against Argentina in 1998, against Portugal in 2004 and 2006, against Italy in 2012). Bad luck through the years. At this point today, there is finally no hype about the Three Lions. Maybe it will help them to get as far as possible, this time led by Harry Kane. The Russians, on the other hand, are not cursed, they’re just not good enough for any serious dreams. 

Russian National Team
2018 Russian National Team

Finally, to the point. When it comes to the World Cup the whole country is once again is caught between two things: expectations of some nice results, which would be getting to the play-off stage, and thoughts of an inevitable exit. Recently, just before the World Cup, a famous local comedian, Semen Slepakov, recorded a song about the Russian national team’s performance and attitude. It immediately went viral with millions of YouTube views. The song’s idea is that the only hope for the team to deliver a good outcome is to have Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechnya ruler and a very notorious person, as a coach. But even fearless Ramzan says in the end, after the failure, to the players in the dressing room:

‘Get off me, I am afraid of you,
First time in my life, I do surrender’.

The song idea is that nobody, be it God or Ramzan Kadyrov, would help the players to play good football. All they are interested in, according to Semen Slepakov, is fancy tattoos, girls and money. By the way, Ramzan Kadyrov himself liked the song and invited the comedian to his Grozny residence ‘to get a new poetic experience’ in Chechnya, which is a gag by itself. Kadyrov, a man who really has a frightening background with murders, etc., has joined the national hype for the World Cup.

This time around, the World Cup madness in Russia is not so much about actual performance. It is more about a great event with millions of fans coming in – up to 2.5 million people – from all over the world and a  great tournament organization, which is just fantastic. Both fans and foreign teams so Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergeyfar agree that the whole thing works very well, with nice stadiums and smooth logistics. And this is what makes me, and many of my compatriots, really proud. The nation madly wants to show to the world that Russia is still a part of the global community, not just some pariah. 




The World Cup

In America, Soccer is the game of the future… and always will be.

Yes, there is a football league (soccer) in the US and I guess the league is doing alright. I understand that very few Americans attend these games, the stands are filled with recent immigrants. 

Logo World Cup 2018Why would that be? They call it the beautiful game and if that’s so why don’t Americans watch? There is a reason for this – let me explain: The US has four major sports; American Football, Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey. These sports position their playoffs and championship games during different seasons through the year. In other words, there is never a time when we are not in a run-up to the big championship game.

That means for a new sport to break-through, it has to go up against an established sport that already has major TV rights. The news gets worse; football (soccer) is a warm weather sport, being played from around July until October in the US. That means going up against Baseball during the first half of the season and American Football during the second half. Yeah, that will work.

There is one major thing that is working in Soccer’s favour: it’s played in schools. Many youngsters Photograph of Dean Lewisare exposed to the game in their schools. That’s why so many think when these kids grow up, they will still like the game. It IS the game of the future! 

So if you win the World Cup, do you really get a cup? That kinda’ sucks.