A World Cup That Brings the World Together

It was the beginning of the Russian summer when FIFA World cup started last June. But winter had the last blow of the Siberian wind. Someone informed me before going to Russia that the Russian summer was colder than the Bangladeshi winter. But for the football-fans Russia was the perfect place for celebrating World Football.

Russian immigration officers were nice and naïve to welcome hundreds of thousands of people coming from all over the world. Volunteers were very much supporting in the host cities helping football-fans facing any problem. From every point of view FIFA World Cup in Russia was a great success. What is FIFA World Cup? Is it just a football fight for a trophy? Or is it that only 32 teams participating there? No, it is not. World Cup is more than that. While walking in the Red Square, Moscow city center and talking to multinational people I learned some other aspects of the World Cup.

Every year different festivals are celebrated in the world, most of them being regional, religious and national. FIFA World Cup appears to be the only festival that people can enjoy and celebrate all over the world, irrespective of region and religion. In Russia, there were FIFA fan fest centers in every host city. A splendid place for football-fans from all over the world that can portray their own culture without any hesitation. Perhaps it was the most controversial FIFA World Cup ever that made people to believe the venue could have changed to other part of the European continent but Russia had full support from FIFA to organize the greatest show on earth and they surprised the World by showing the greatness of the event.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was absolutely right when he asserted at the inauguration of Russia World Cup 2018 that the love for football can bring the world together, irrespective of peoples’ ideological differences. There is certainly no other sporting event, including the Summer Olympics, which appeals to the masses around the world in the way the World Cup does. Images from around the globe before the start of the World Cup were ample proof of the ‘World Cup fever’.

The pictures of a group of kids at a backstreet of Rio de Janeiro having a ball as huge murals of Neymar and Jesus loom over them, or the self-taught sculptor who carves out giant images of football stars on the beach in Puri in India, or weaving flag of World Cup playing nations on every rooftop of the Bangladesh! They all reflect the united colors of football. To the legion of lovers of this beautiful game, one does not have to be from a participating nation to soak in the spirit of this carnival.

Otherwise, how do you explain the madness of a city like Dhaka in Bangladesh where football fans stay divided into Brazil and Argentina camps for one month? The World Cup continues to bring together the best players from around the world. A global audience in the billions will tune into the games, testifying its tremendous popularity. The 64 games over 32 days, no doubt, produced some exciting contests that were shining the spotlight on a new generation of players while burnishing the reputation of some of the stars. With no clear favorites, this World Cup was perhaps the most open contest in recent times.

Croatia and Belgium had the great energy to win the battle but finally French won the World Cup. Football is said to have the power to bring people together, regardless of their age, race, gender, culture, or nationality, and that is never truer than at World Cup. It is the most played and watched sport in the world, and because of that, the World Cup is one of the most anticipated sporting events, with only the Olympics rivaling it in terms of popularity. World Cup was shown in every single country on Earth, including Antarctica, and the competition reached over three billion people around the world. The final of the 2018 World Cup alone was watched by over a billion people.

During the World Cup, fans from the same country unite to support their team and their players, all banded under one flag. Even when their country is knocked out of the competition, many fans flock to support another nation they have ties to, or maybe a neighboring country that they would normally consider their rival. I was in Russia during the 2018 World Cup and I remember the incredible atmosphere and the “good vibes” across the host nation. Russia lost the quarter final against Croatia by a penalty shoot-out. They were really in a deep sorrow but they never stopped enjoying the world cup moment and supporting other nations.

After Russia took exit from the World Cup, many Russians went on supporting Belgium for their beautiful game. When a big game was on, there were hundreds of people in the streets, and huge cheers whenever a goal went in. When Russia scored, the bar, pub or home where you were watching would go crazy and would turn to the closest person possible to celebrate with them with vodka. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and enjoying the competition and the company. In years to come, many Russians will reminisce about where they were when Yury Aleksandrovich Gazinsky scored Russia’s first goal of the tournament, and then followed it up with, in my opinion, one of the greatest World Cup celebrations ever. An example of how football can unify is when the Ivory Coast qualified for 2006 World Cup in Germany, and helped to end the civil war that was raging in their country.

The war started in 2002 between the Muslim north of the country and the Christian south. Moments after the Ivory Coast secured qualification, Didier Drogba, the star player of the team and a hugely popular figure in the country, begged both fighting parties to stop on national TV. The football team was made up of people from a mix of religions and ethnicities who wanted to use their success to help the country end its bloody conflict. Within a week the factions put down their arms and agreed to a ceasefire.

The World Cup can and has proven to be a catalyst for change and it has the effect of bringing people from different cultures and nationalities together. As someone so eloquently put it before the World Cup 2018: “The World Cup brings together not just 11 soccer players from one nation as a team, not just a country in support of their side, not just 32 nations, not just hundreds of thousands of fans in stadiums across South Africa but it brings the world together.”

  • By: Rasadur Rahman

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