Sunday, June 20, 2010

The circle is complete

North Corea and Paraguay are playing tomorrow in the first round of the World Cup. This is a repeat of one of the most legendary matches in history, the 1966 World Cup quarterfinal where Portugal defeated North Corea 5-3. But besides being a legendary match, it was also a match that symbolized the globalization of football that has led us to where we are today, at the first World Cup in Africa, and thus, there is a strange symbolism around this match tomorrow.

In 1966 all African nations decided to boycot the World Cup as it was a virtual arrogant monopoly between Europe and South America, who, besides Mexico, allowed only one participant from "the rest of the World". This participant became North Corea amid the African boycot, who qualifed and was not given much of chance against the USSR, Chile and Italy. But North Corea tied Chile, and in one of the most sensational victories in history, defeated Italy, to make it to the quarterfinals.
Nevertheless , the "rest of the world team" had only half-quieted Europe and South America, but this was to change: after only 30 minutes, the unknown Asians were ahead 3-0 against the "Europeans" from Portugal, and had the unconditional support of all fans in Liverpool, as well as most of the football fans of the world, who far ahead of FIFA wanted to see the rest of the world succeed in the sport that in spite of it all belongs to the fans (and not to FIFA...).
Portugal ended winning 5-3, but the player who led the way was Eusebio, a Mozambican and African, who played for Portugal because Mozambique was Portuguese colony at them time. However, a person from "the rest of the world" had shown the way for Portugal, against a stunning football nation from the "rest of the world". The globalization of the game really started then, although FIFA really only started it when they saw money in it...

The World Cup is now a world event: it (currently) belongs to Africa, and Europe and South America is no longer the owner of what it long considered itself to be.
Although it seems unlikely that we will have such a match tomorrow, it would be proper to remember the Asian and the one African pioneer of 1966!

No comments: