As hundreds of millions of us sit down to a feast of football, who will stand out as a real champion of football? Who will light up the World Cup with a smile (remember Pele’s smile) instead of a raging roar of aggression? Or maybe a dance (Peter Crouch’s Robot Dance or the 42 year old Cameroonian Roger Milla’s samba with the corner flag)? Or perhaps the unbridled joy of youth will let Nigeria’s 19 year old revelation, Haruna Lukman, simply celebrate the fun, excitement and joy of playing in the world’s best competition?
Who remembers Bobby Moore and Pele swapping shirts and embracing each other after their epic battle in the opening rounds in the 1970 World Cup (see front cover of my book)? *
Or France 1998 when USA played Iran (despite having cut off diplomatic relations) – the players exchanged gifts, helped each other up off the ground and secretly arranged to play a 3 game friendly series without either government knowing.*
Or the magical moment in Germany 2006 just before kick off when the Iranian goalkeeper gave a bouquet of flowers to, the still grieving, Mexican goalkeeper, Sanchez, who had just flown back from Guadalajara after burying his father.*
Will players be allowed to swap shirts? Who will demonstrate sportsmanship? So that kids everywhere see how cool sportsmanship can be when opposing players do battle and embrace afterwards? Why do players play? Because they love it. Let’s see who will show their unbridled joy? Who will fully embrace the magic of the brotherhood of football? Send me your stories, observations and thoughts as it all unfolds and I’ll publish them here.
Quiz Question: Who is England’s best ever goal scorer (goals to games ratio)? Very few English fans know it. Post your answer. I’ll also give full answer in my next post.
Footnote * indicates the full two minute story is in the Great Moments Of Sportsmanship book.