I was going to make my predictions for this World Cup. But the truth is that I cannot. It is not because the usual reason (that I am always wrong). Rather, it is because I have realized I have a hard time getting excited about this World Cup.
I fell in love with the World Cup in 1986, and since then every four years have been special in my otherwise dull life. I remember where I have been every time, and remember many matches in a special way. Four years ago I was incredibly excited, and after trying vainly to get tickets for Brazil, I instead made a trip to many of the countries participating in the tournament, watching the tournament with friends around the world. My first disappointment in this tournament was again being unable to get tickets through a system that lacks transparency and ease.
But it goes deeper than this.
A friend recently asked me "Is it because it is in Russia?".
Absolutely not: I believe Russia will be as great hosts as anybody else would be!
No, the problem goes deeper to football: the ugly nationalism that football promotes (more or less consciously); the corruption and match fixing (having read the book "The Fix", I think this is much more widespread than us fans would like to know about); FIFA's insincere management of the game (well illustrated by the ticketing and the initiatives to expand the World Cup); the widespread misogyny in football that few really want to address; the hatred between fans that still assails the game; the players, who more as examples for youth, spend their time showing off their money and fame, and spend half their time acting on the pitch (football is sadly the most dishonest sport in the world); racism and xenophobia (yes, it exists and is growing in every single country and league); the hypocritical infiltration of politics into football (recently illustrated by German fans booing Gundogan in a match against Saudi Arabia); football's half-hearted and dishonest efforts in really trying to address all these problems....
Many years ago I read a comic by the great Enki Bilal, "Hors Jeu"; a bleak future world in which the last football match is being played, following the deterioration of the game due to violence, money, corruption, etc. While the comic ends with some hope when the narrator describes some children playing football on the street, as a symbol of the innocence of the beautiful game, I do wonder whether this innocence barely exists any longer, and that football is heading towards its own destruction.
The last World Cup...? Maybe I will get excited in a few days, but I have been trying without luck.