World Cup a metaphor of our reality?

For us Aussies, the Socceroos’ elimination from the World Cup in the dying seconds of injury time on a dubious penalty call favouring Italy, is something we can’t get out of our heads. You could feel the shockwaves rocking a stunned nation when the referee pointed to the penalty spot just as we were waiting for him to blow the final whistle. A few days later, with what I think is a little more perspective, I tell myself that it’s only a bunch of guys we don’t know running around with a ball for over 90 minutes trying their darndest to kick it between two posts - even just the once.

As I write this, my friend calls me and expresses his ongoing depression elicited by that penalty call. We spend some minutes discussing the hapless demise of both countries related to us in the World Cup - Australia and Iran.

Why can’t we stop talking about sport? Why does it inspire us, unite us, give us hope and identity? For me, it also gives a sense of my own lack of fitness and sporting prowess. So it’s both empowering and humbling, qualities uncannily religious (hence the FIFA president’s call to prayer in this photo). Unfortunately, like they have with religion, fans now and then forget what they’re there for and turn into hooligans. That aside, true sport is empowering and humbling. For the faithful it’s a daily way of life, for the opportunistic it’s a Sunday religion, or in the case of the World Cup, a four yearly pilgrimage.

One thing’s for sure - a ball can bring people together. Here Kofi Anan, Secretary General of the UN, sees the World Cup as something to learn from:

How We Envy the World Cup By Kofi A. Annan
For any country, playing in the World Cup is a matter of profound national pride. For countries qualifying for the first time, such as my native Ghana, it is a badge of honour. For those who are doing so after years of adversity, such as Angola, it provides a sense of national renewal. And for those who are currently riven by conflict, like Côte d’Ivoire, but whose World Cup team is a unique and powerful symbol of national unity, it inspires nothing less than the hope of national rebirth.

Which brings me to what is perhaps most enviable of all for us in the United Nations: the World Cup is an event in which we actually see goals being reached. I’m not talking only about the goals a country scores; I also mean the most important goal of all — being there, part of the family of nations and peoples, celebrating our common humanity. I’ll try to remember that when Ghana plays Italy in Hanover on 12 June. Of course, I can’t promise I’ll succeed.

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