The greatest show on earth just ended. It has seen the demise of greats and the democratisation of football. Brazil 2014 belied fears that the Fifa World Cup’s return to South America would be marred by mass protests and technical glitches. Despite the run-up to the mega sporting event being anything but smooth — from the lackadaisical state of preparedness of stadiums to allegations of corruption, serious questions were raised over the host nation’s ability to deliver — Brazilians’ ‘jeitinho’ or ability to improvise solutions carried through the $13 billion tournament.
There were parallels here with India’s preparations for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games that also saw last-minute scrambling and graft. However, ‘jugaad’ like ‘jeitinho’ carried the day in the end. While this does bolster the perception that mega sporting events can be held outside the developed world, doubts remain about benefits accruing from them. Brazil had touted the World Cup — as the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympic Games — as a massive boost for infrastructure and urban renewal. Much of the public services promised remain unfulfilled. Add to this existing grievances over the state of Brazil’s economy, and it’s easy to see why President Dilma Rousseff — who had staked much political capital on hosting the World Cup — is likely to face a tough election this year.
That said, Brazilian authorities need to be commended for ensuring the focus remained on football action. With 171 goals — equalling the record set in the 1998 edition — World Cup 2014 blurred the line between minnows and traditional football powerhouses. Praiseworthy performances by teams such as Costa Rica, Algeria, Iran, Chile and Colombia pointed to a democratisation of footballing prowess. That the trend reflects the growing multipolarity of geopolitics is more than just coincidence. The global South is no longer content with making up numbers, be it on the football pitch or in the power corridors of international forums.
The final of the marquee tournament was marked by a clash of contrasting cultures. While Argentina depended on superstar Lionel Messi to deliver, opponents Germany relied on the strength of their teamwork. The Germans edged out their rivals narrowly, winning the championship with a small 1-0 margin. That this was Germany’s first World Cup title after reunification is pertinent. It signifies a reborn nation that has gotten over the trauma of its Nazi past and division of Germany that followed, and currently enjoys a commanding position in the global polity and economy.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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