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How the World Cup reflects the world



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"Time is that irritating inconvenience between football matches." That is an almost apocryphal line, generally attributed to the Franco-Algerian philosopher, and useful collegiate goalkeeper – Albert Camus. But whatever its origin, it sounds true when the World Cup is launched in Russia.

There are no such large and captivating events as this 32nd national soccer tournament (yes, friends overseas, The Washington Post demands that I write "football") teams. And there is not a single event that dramatically captures the global imagination. During the next month, all over the planet, interest in non-World Cup events will be exhausted, office goers will skip work, politicians will put on and hide behind the national shirt, and the Time will stop: at least for 90 minutes. go.

In an earlier era, the World Cup served as a kind of meeting point for strange cultures and rival nations. British journalist Tim Vickery, now an expert on South American soccer based in Brazil, described how seeing a simple sticker of Peruvian player Ramón Mifflin before the 1970 tournament aroused the curiosity of a 5-year-old boy growing up in the suburbs of London. 19659005] "I did not have any album to keep it, but that image always stayed with me," said Vickery, evoking the striking portrait of the athlete, his high cheekbones and the elegant red sash of the Peruvian shirt, all in contrast to an Andean background. . "That picture of Peru symbolized everything that was exotic and fascinating about international football."

Now, however, the World Cup is no longer an exotic exhibition from abroad as an expression of an increasingly shared global experience . In the 21st century, the most important stars of the sport appear in the same clubs steeped in money, appear in the same video games sold worldwide and appear in the Instagram channels of others. Young fans may not like the squad of Peru to appear in this year's tournament, but they probably know them.

For much of the public, national teams are now the second fiddle of popular professional leagues that have achieved lucrative audiences around the world. . Kenyans or Indians often feel as much loyalty to a team in Manchester as any Mancunian, and probably more than they feel for any of the poorer clubs at home.

And the character of national teams often reflects a reality that transcends the nation-state. France, one of the favorites of the tournament, has extracted most of its strength from its minority and immigrant communities, linked to the wide spread of the French post-colonial world. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of the Moroccan team was born in Europe.

"The tournament is not so much an exhibition of different national identities as a reminder of how coincidentally ideas and tactical fashions in football cross borders," wrote my twin brother, Kanishk Tharoor, for the New York Times.

At a time when populists advocate a nationalist future, the World Cup can offer a snapshot of a world at home in its pluralism. "The success of this festival of nations depends to a large extent on the energies that cross borders and eliminate people from their national roots," Kanishk wrote. "It suggests that there really is a false dichotomy between 'globalism' and 'nativism'. Both in football and in life, it is perfectly possible to be a proud representative of your nation without being able to be and incurably global ".

A perfect example is Mohammed Salah, the extreme talisman of Egypt. It's very popular in Egypt, where more than a million people cast written votes for him in this year's simulated presidential election, possibly making it second. But as leader of Liverpool FC in northwest England, his exploits earned him adulation throughout the Arab world and led English fans to serenade his religion. Salah is "a player who has become a unifying global force in an increasingly fractured world," Afshin Molavi wrote for The Post.

However, Salah has become another pawn in the politics of power that follows the global game. Images of him posing with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a controversial former warlord making a propaganda play for the Muslim world, have sparked an international backlash.

As much as football – and the World Cup, in particular – can come together, it also serves as a constant reminder of inequity, corruption and abuses of power. Since the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA, the governing body of the sport, has faced an inquisition in its dark business and the apparent greed of its top executives, although it is not clear if some lessons have been learned.

Geopolitics also hovers over acts. Before their two countries begin the tournament on Thursday, it is said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are discussing a lucrative oil business. The stigma of Putin's domination, the violent past actions of Russian football fans and the endemic racism in the country attenuated the excitement for many foreigners before the World Cup.

Iran no longer receives its tacos from Nike as the US company fears the resumption of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Argentina arrived in Russia in the wake of a diplomatic storm after canceling a preparatory match with Israel, ostensibly as an act of protest against the treatment of Palestinians. And as President Trump rejects multilateralism and disputes with American allies, the United States conveniently did not even qualify for the tournament.

But whatever clouds loom over the World Cup, they can be dispelled by the joy and hope of those who love

"The more technocrats program it to the smallest detail, the more the powerful manipulate it, soccer continues to be the art of the unpredictable, "wrote Eduardo Galeano, the last Uruguayan author and public intellectual. "When you least expect it, the impossible happens, the dwarf teaches the giant a lesson and a black man with bowed legs makes an athlete sculpted in Greece look ridiculous."

Camus is more linked to another famous sport world line, referring to his time on the net for a team in Algiers: "Everything I know about man's moral and duty," he said, "I owe him" to football. For good and for bad, allow the games to begin.

Do you want an intelligent analysis of the most important news in your inbox every day of the week along with other global readings, interesting ideas and opinions to know? Subscribe to the Today & # 39; s WorldView newsletter .

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