TODAY -

FIFA World Cup 2022 : Why it will be memorable and significant

Thanggoulen Kipgen *



The FIFA World Cup 2022 kicked off in the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar on November 20, 2022, as the thirty-minute Opening Ceremony wowed billions of football fans worldwide. A number of distinguished guests and celebrities attended the ceremony, including Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, K-pop star Jung Kook from BTS, South Korea, and our very own Vice-President of India, Jagdeep Dhankar.

The opening exchange between Freeman and the young Qatari Ghanim Al-Muftah highlights the power of football to bring people of diverse Nationalities and cultural backgrounds together. Freeman stated, "What unites us is greater than what divides us. We are one big tribe, and the Earth is our tent Together, we can make the call for everyone to unite."

Twelve years since it received hosting rights, Qatar has been in the spotlight for a variety of reasons. From the exponential expenditure incurred on developing infrastructure, amounting to more than 200 billion dollars, to criticisms over the plight of the migrant workers involved in the construction of stadiums, a poor record on LGBTQ+ rights, and purported corruption involved during the bidding process, the 2022 World Cup has been a nightmare for its host, Qatar.

Despite all these issues and concerns, the tournament also offers lots of excitement and zeal. First, this World Cup is historic, as the largest sporting event in the world has fmally arrived in the Middle East and Arab world. Aljazeera reported, "It is our time to shine." Time magazine asserts that this World Cup provides a rare time of Arab unity. It is a major occasion for the unification of an area that shares deep linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions, but is plagued by political partisanship.

Second, it is the largest sporting event post-pandemic. The postponed 2022 Tokyo Olympics concluded with a number of restrictions and constraints. The absence of spectators, the prohibition on singing and chanting during competitions, and the requirement that all competitors wear masks at all times rendered the event unpopular and disappointing in many ways.

After two years of combating the Covid pandemic with rigorous measures in the form of lockdowns and social distancing, this World Cup allows people of different ethnicities, cultures, genders, races, and ages the opportunity to overcome isolation and unite in celebration of the sport. Third, this quadrennial competition will be the "final hurrah" for several of the sport's greatest legends.

Some of the biggest stars in the sport, including Neymar Jr, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Manuel Neuer, Luka Modric, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Busquets, and Thiago Silva, will dance in their final moments. The potential absence of these talents at the subsequent World Cup makes this year all the more significant and exciting. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will undoubtedly be unique and historically significant.

Fourth, Jungkook, a 24-year-old member of BTS, sung the official FIFA song, "Dreamers," making him the first Asian artist to perform the official FIFA anthem. The BTS fanbase, commonly known as the BTS ARMY, has been effusive in its admiration of Jungkook performance. "Dreamers" also broke the record for the fastest official FIFA World Cup song to reach number one on the iTunes Top Songs chart in at least 102 countries.

Spectators around the world cheered not just to celebrate BTS, but also to celebrate the rising profile of Asian talents and excellence. Last but not least, with rumours that Al-Nassr, a Saudi Arabian club, has given Cristiano Ronaldo a massive contract, the Ronaldo-Messi rivalry in world football is likely to end in Qatar. Assuming this transfer goes through, Ronaldo and Messi will never face each other in a major tournament again until the 2026 World Cup.

Both Ronaldo (now 37) and Messi (now 35) are probably too old to play in the next tournament. If destiny is on our side, Portugal and Argentina will face each other in the Final if they win all their remaining matches. Who deserves to be called the GOAT, the Greatest Of All Time ? Let the whole world see and judge for themselves.

FIFA World Cup and India India qualified for the 1950 FIFA World Cup but did not compete for unknown reasons. One explanation was that India did not view the FIFA World Cup as a priority since it was more interested in competing in the 1951 Asian Games and the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. The second excuse was that there were insufficient funds to travel to Brazil, which seems implausible given that FIFA was willing to cover the trip expenses.

Another story stated that FIFA prohibited the Indian squad from playing without footwear. Since 1950, India has not qualified for the World Cup for whatever reason. Historically, India had performed well in international competitions, reaching the Olympic semifinals in 1956, winning gold at the Asian Games in 1962, placing third in 1958 and second in 1970, and coming second in the AFC Asian Cup in 1964. After the 1980s, there was a gradual decline in football in India.

The rise of cricket and India's victory in the 1983 cricket world cup was a major factor. As one of the authors of "Awakening the Blue Tigers," Gaurav Gala, explained: "Winning the 1983 Cricket World Cup in England was a major turning point for the sport in India. Four years later, we hosted the World Cup in India, which brought it to the attention of the Indian public". In India, cricket eventually supplanted all other sports.

Today, India has a FIFA ranking of 106, which is significantly lower than Iran (20), Japan (24), South Korea (28), Qatar (50), and Saudi Arabia (51), which represented Asia in this competition. Every football fan wants to know, "When will India, called 'the Blue Tigers,' compete in the World Cup ?" India has an abundance of football talents and huge fan base. During each world cup, one can observe a large fan base that supports countries such as Argentina, Portugal, Germany, and Brasil, among others, and would do anything to demonstrate their devotion for the game.

This year in Kerala, a group of friends purchased an old house for Rs 23 lakh in order to watch the World Cup together; a brawl broke out between Brasil and Argentina fans and loyalists erect enormous cutouts of Neymar, Ronaldo, and Messi.

In the North East, hundreds of supporters donning jerseys of their favourite player and country participated in rallies, and offered Christian prayers for their favourite player and team. Even though India is not a participating squad, one may be astonished by the level of football enthusiasm in India. Despite its current state, Indian football has plenty of potential for improvement.

Firstly, India has a population of 1.4 billion, therefore picking the best talents to represent the country shouldn't be difficult. Secondly, the country already has the kind of passion and love for the game that is most evident during every World Cup; all it needs is a trigger and a "road map" to realise this dream. Does India need a trigger to change the course of football the way it did for cricket when they won the World Cup in 1983 or when they hosted the Cricket World Cup in 1987 ?

With installation of the new All India Football Federation (AIFF) leadership recently after FIFA's suspension and the 'road map' for Indian football to be completed by December 2022, Indian football is at a pivotal juncture. Indian youths may be encouraged to pursue a career in football by the recent success of the Indian Super League (ISL) and the substantial investment in clubs and players.

FIFA is also taking an active interest in fostering football's growth in India, knowing well that participation of a country like India in the World Cup will only benefit the sport. Developing fundamental infrastructures like as training facilities, youth academies, and state-of-the-art stadiums; training and licencing coaches and match officials; establishing full-fledged junior and senior leagues; and promoting women's football are essential for the growth of football in India.

The existing five spots for the Asian region at the World Cup will be boosted by three more addition for the subsequent event, providing India with a great opportunity to qualify. The country's estimated 200 million football fans would love to cheer for the Blue Tigers at the 2030 World Cup, if not in 2026.

All Indians eagerly anticipate the day when they will be able to root for their own country in the world's greatest sporting event. To that end, every Indian hopes that the dream of the Indian football fan who held a banner reading "India will Play in the World Cup One Day" during a match in Qatar comes true.


* Thanggoulen Kipgen wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer teaches Sociology at HT Kanpur and can be reached at kipgenst(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 08 2022.



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