You're coming home with me... Pele and friend.

You're coming home with me... Pele and friend.

I am one lucky bastard.

 

As I'm frantically packing for my trip to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup Finals I'm keenly aware of that. Every one tells me so. 

 

Brazil, home of Jogo Bonito, a land of sun and samba where football is the heart and lungs of a nation, the core of it's very being.

 

It should be perfect, and of course it isn't.

 

In the weeks leading up to the greatest show on earth our news has been full of tales of chaos and confusion as Brazil struggles to meet the demands of hosting The World Cup Finals.

 

Sadly, the country has been saddled with an over reach of ambition by its rulers. It is also buckling under the weight of our expectation. 

 

Brazilians are battling to find a share in their country's extraordinary wealth. As their economy emerges as a 21st Century powerhouse, there is a struggle going on to ensure that those most in need are not left behind.

 

It can be witnessed in the "manifestations" that have occurred in the last year or so as ordinary Brazilians have taken to the streets to protest at the vast amounts of money spent by their government on hosting The World Cup.

 

Brazilians protesting about The World Cup? It seems like Santa protesting about Xmas.

 

Yet whilst we pack our bags to fly half way around the world to enjoy the trip of a lifetime, most  Brazilians live without the sort of pay, education, health, welfare, clean water and sanitation we take for granted.

 

It's a fact that disproves the cliche. Football isn't more important than life. 

 

Not even in Brazil.

 

 For most of this week I was despondent. I mean, if Brazil can't host a decent World Cup Finals, why bother holding them at all? 

 

Coupled with the continuing revelations of Qatar  successful 2022 bid, football had again started to feel like a con.

 

On the surface it's all glitz, glamour and endless possibility. Behind this flimsy facade the sleaze and corruption that oozes out of every pore of FIFA leaves a wretched stink.

 

 

As the day nears for my departure, I needed to remind myself that the game doesn't belong to the men in FIFA monogrammed blue suits who stride about as masters of the universe, though they hold it hostage - for now.

 

Nor is it the preserve of the mega corporations who pour rivers of gold into FIFA's Zurich bank accounts in order to cash in on the game the world loves.

 

It isn't their game. 

 

It's ours. 

 

Even despite the parlous state of its governance.

 

The enduring spirit of the game can't be shrink wrapped, packaged and sold to the highest bidder.

 

This revealed itself to me in Pretoria, South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals.

 

Japan faced Paraguay in a round of 16 game that night. One corner of the stadium was brought to life by the magnificent choreography of Japanese  Samurai Blue fans. Elsewhere in the stands, the Paraguayans were grooving to a pulsating rhythm of their own.

 

All around me, South Africans of all colour and creed enjoyed the festivities.

 

It was a brilliant occasion.

 

It occurred to me - what could possibly bring The Japanese, Paraguayans, Africans and the occasional stray Aussie together in a mood of shared celebration like this?

 

There is only one thing.

 

Football.

 

An international language, written with a ball and understood by all.

 

It is the spirit of the game that unites us despite the greed and avarice of some.

 

Many faces, voices, stories and places.

 

One beautiful game.

 

 

 

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