The World Cup is held every four years and is always greeted with the same excitement and joy. The grown men and women are transported back to their childhood memories of previous tournaments and become lyrical about former players.
Everyone has a favorite tournament. Mine is France ’98 since it was the first tournament I saw in its entirety. Many loved Spain ’82 as it was the first World Cup England had played in twelve years, having missed out in 1974 and 1978. Other favorites are 1966 and the 1970 tournament in Mexico for my dad’s generation.
Italian company Panini puts out a new collection of World Cup stickers before each tournament and many fans go out and buy handfuls of packs in hopes of completing their collection. I’m almost done with Panini’s Brazil 2014 trading card collection. However, I’m now left with a few spare coins and a large handful of trading cards, including around eight from the same Algerian player!
During the build-up to France ’98, Sainsburys put out a collection of coins featuring portraits of the England team they thought would be playing in the tournament that summer. I completed the collection and still have the album, but now I have some spare coins. I don’t have the heart to throw them away yet!
In addition to stickers and other collectibles, companies are quick to seize any marketing opportunity, selling all kinds of tacky products. Huge amounts of the St. George flag suddenly appear on car windows and hang from many houses and pubs.
If you’re looking to save some money in preparation for Christmas, cheap car flags can be a preferred way to show your support for the England national team. The new home and away shirts have recently launched and are £70 each!
Many famous moments in football history have taken place at the World Cups. Whether it’s the dazzling performances by Brazil’s teams in 1970 and 1982, Cruyff’s turnaround in 1974, or Maradona’s Hand of God goal against England in 1986, these moments will be remembered forever. Many feature in the ‘Iconic Soccer Moments’ series I’ve written. You can find this series here.
This tournament is the first to be played at the end of the calendar year due to the weather in Qatar. The World Cup is normally played during June and July, which gives the tournament a strange feel. This time there will be no watching matches in pub gardens and no post-match barbecues in England!
However, this year’s tournament is very different. It is being played in Qatar and has received a lot of very bad publicity. Many hundreds of poorly paid migrant workers have died while building the state-of-the-art stadiums. Qataris’ beliefs have been openly criticized and their views on ethics have been questioned. England captain Harry Kane has already told the press that he will continue to wear his ‘OneLove’ bracelet, displaying anti-discrimination and promoting LGBTQ+ rights.
The last tournament played in a country with so much political scandal would have been Argentina ’78. It was during this time that the Junta governed the country, during what was called the Dirty War that took place between 1976 and 1983. Thousands of Argentine civilians who opposed the Junta regime ‘disappeared’ during these seven years, many of them tortured and finally delicate. Despite starting two years before the World Cup, the South American country was still able to host the competition.
Despite all the negative publicity about the upcoming tournament, there are still 64 football matches to be played. There may well be a moment that will be talked about for years to come and I look forward to action on the pitch.