The quadrennial FIFA World Cup begins today in Russia. "Russia?" you ask. Umm-Hmm. And on Day One they play . . . Saudi Arabia! It seems Russia is everywhere these days! In this one case, however, America will not be in-collusion: the U.S. failed to make it into the final 32 qualifying teams. (So much for Making America Great Again). The U.S. team does have notable company on the sidelines: Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast all failed to make it into the tournament. Fox Broadcasting, which had already purchased the U.S. rights to cover the games, is concerned that American viewership will be even lower than usual (given no American team in the competition). Instead, they will focus on promoting the Mexican team, hoping to stimulate viewership within Mexican-American communities. See how much Fox likes our southern neighbors?
Football (or Soccer, as it’s called in very few countries) is the world’s most popular sport, referred to as “The Beautiful Game.” The teams will all receive an apportioned share of the $400 million (U.S.) purse—with the champions, naturally, winning the biggest portion of the pot. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (or FIFA) has held the World Cup tournament every four years since 1930, with the exception of 1942 and 1946 due to World War II.
The choice of Russia to host has been controversial. Beyond allegations of international election tinkering, Russia is criticized for its racist nationalism, oppression of gay people, killing of investigative journalists, invasion of sovereign neighbors, high-level athletic doping programs, and general political corruption. On top of this, the Russian economy is still feeling the pain of a worldwide economic slump, low-ish oil prices and plenty of economic sanctions from democratic nations around the world.
Just remember: it's The Beautiful Game! And a football is round!
The cast spelter Footballer sculpture, pictured above, is from the shop owner’s private collection and was made in England in the 1950’s.