For those of you who are counting there will be at least 140 hours of live coverage of World Cup football by the time the final is over. That does not include the extended time given over to pre-match commentary and expert analysis after each game and, together with the recorded highlights, you can almost double that time. Some people just cannot get enough of the so-called, Beautiful Game. Not everyone, of course, thinks the same and certainly not my wife, Debbie, for whom the seasonal Saturday night coverage on Match of the Day is more than enough football. I have to say I have some sympathy with her.
My viewing, as far as possible, has been pretty much limited to the England games, and to some of the late-night recorded highlights. Debbie knows that when the national team are playing then she needs a crow bar to almost prise me away from the action, and any conversation is pretty much limited to the half-time interval, when she has to endure further imagined expert analysis from people like me who form the legion of armchair critics, and who just so happen to know exactly which team should be picked and how the game should be played!
But let us not write off the World Cup altogether, even if you are not a football fan. It’s true to say that the impact of the World Cup, or any other great world sporting event for that matter, goes beyond what happens for the 90 minutes inside the football stadium, or say through the various events of an Olympic Games. Football is more than a game, and a more recent phenomenon has been the social impact global
football has had on people’s lives, raising issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and poverty. I remember at a previous World Cup there was a global event called the Homeless World Cup which aimed to get homeless people out of the poverty trap.
There will be many questions raised about the rights and wrongs of the World Cup, not least the enormous cost of hosting them and the way host venues are sometimes chosen. There are also dangers when misguided patriotism from so-called supporters has a very negative impact which can escalate into violence, and we know there has been a real threat of that happening, but let’s hope it won’t. Sport can bring out the worst in people, but it can also bring out the best and used for a greater common good at local, national and international level. Not least it’s great to see people of different nations coming together. When it does the latter, then somehow I think God will approve. May we offer to God the best of our common humanity when opportunity arises, even if it is in an arena of fair competition. It’s a goal worth aiming for.