July 29, 1986, Mexico City
114,600 people at the Estadio Azteca hold their breath. With 83 minutes on the clock, the score in the 1986 World Cup final is at 2-2. Both teams, Argentina and Germany push forward for the winner.
Jorge Burruchaga then scores in the 84th minute to allow Argentina to regain the lead at 3–2. The Germans then commit many men forward, only to be held off by the resilient Argentinians. Argentina hold on to win the 1986 World Cup. As a nation of 30 million celebrates, there is another, some 12,000 kilometres away, filled with sadness.
Fast forward to July 13, 2014…
Argentina and Germany meet, yet again, in the 2014 World Cup final. Only this time, the tables have turned. The score remains 0-0 at the end of 90 minutes. As the game progresses to extra time, Germany’s Mario Götze scores a 113th minute winner to break Argentinian hearts.
This is football. The beautiful game ('o jogo bonito' in Portugese). Much like a rollercoaster ride, it has its ups and downs.
Germany and Argentina are just two such examples of how much the game means to their people. Despite the intensity and fervour with which these matches are played, fans and players have a great amount of respect and camaraderie with their counterparts.
Football is a language spoken by millions across the globe. There are more members in FIFA, football’s governing body, than in the United Nations! 209, as compared to the United Nation’s 193. The barriers of creed, caste, race and religion are transcended by football. As the name suggests, all one needs is a simple ball and some enthusiasm to truly enjoy the game. For many people, it is more than just a sport- it is life.
Sir Walter Scott, the famous author, once remarked “Life is itself a game of football”.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once said,“Sport can reach parts politicians can’t reach. It can help in bringing divided conflicts together in a way nothing else can.” Ivory Coast’s qualification to the 2006 World Cup helped bring a temporary halt to the Ivorian Civil War that had been raging since 2002.
Even on a domestic level, the game is capable of producing some truly magical moments. From Arsenal’s Invincibles - who went an entire season undefeated to underdogs Leicester City’s over the odds league title triumph in 2016, the game has seen it all.
This is not to say that football is the ideal sport. Ultimately, football too, is a business, and a rather huge one. There are many opportunities for tax evasion, money laundering and other illegal activities.
Football gives hope and brings people together in ways nothing else can. It is a simple game, which when played in the right spirit can bring joy to people all over the world.