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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

World Cup fever - let's get a grip

What is it with football?

Yes the World Cup - warts (Fifa) and all - is a major sporting event.

There's no doubting that.

But really, does it mean our elected leaders can afford to forget the really important things happening in the world to ride - albeit briefly - the crest of the feelgood wave they hope might somehow benefit them?

Russia reduces its gas supply to Ukraine "raising the possibility of disrupted transit of gas to Europe" and a difficult winter ahead if things aren't sorted.

And what are our illustrious leaders up to?

Well, the German chancellor Angela Merkel hot-footed it over to Brazil to watch "die Mannshaft" make clinical mincemeat of Portugal (with a little help from an imploding Pepe early into the game)

Back in France as the country limps through its economic muddle, now complete with the inevitable industrial ("non") action from SNCF employees and les intermittents du spectacle, how did the president François Hollande spend his time during Les Bleus' opening game?

He ostentatiously invited 200 people (and the cameras) to la salle des fêtes at the Elysée palace to gawp ("with collective passion") at a giant screen as France ran out victorious over mighty Honduras in their first match.


Giant screen at the Elysée palace (screenshot BFM TV)



Oh well. Winter is months away, so why should politicians care about gas supplies right now?

Perhaps the football commentators will help jog their memories by broaching the subject during Russia's first game against South Korea on Tuesday!

Nigeria kicked off its tournament on Monday with a thrilling 0-0 draw against Iran, and in the meantime the 200 or so missing schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April are still being held hostage. They've been located apparently, but still haven't been freed.

Never mind. Who gives a damn anyway?

French TV news reports spend an inordinate amount of time analysing and speculating on the Les Bleus' chances, interviewing individual French players and managers - past and present - wheeling in the "experts" to give their opinions and asking the man and the woman in the street what they think.

And at the same time Sunni Islamist militants have taken control of Iraq's second city Mosul and are now approaching Baghdad.

The world watches - says little and does nothing as the focus of media attention seems to be elsewhere.

And that "elsewhere" of course is Brazil - the host country, profiting from the glory and the money it's not going to make and the prestige the whole tournament will bring as an answer to its social problems.

Just ask South Africa, the host of the 2010 tournament.

Don't get me wrong. I love the so-called beautiful game. But I also care about other things.

And a World Cup which is as much about business and displays of exaggerated patriotism (whatever that might be) as it is sport, surely simply deflects attention away from those other things that really matter.



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