Football on Sunday…a tradition in the US…thank you NFL
Futbol on Sunday…once every four years..thank you the Globe
It starts on Sunday…Qatar, the host country, opens the World Cup of Soccer.
The 32-team tourney of nations, that have brought us the brilliance of Pele, the flair of Diego Maradona, the guile of Franz Beckenbauer, and the heritage of Brazil-Italy-France-Argentina, moves into high gear on Monday..
Storylines to pay attention to, a Corner Kick of opinions on the World Cup.
QATAR…The controversial bidding to get the games to the desert country was forever marred by the allegations of bribes for votes, to get the country the rights to host games. The scandals led to global charges that led to the takedownof the leadership of soccer’s governing body. And yet the games are about to begin there.
Qatar wants you to see the country thru their lens, the money, the hotels, the luxurious lifestyle. The world wants you to see the reality of what the country stands for: Discrimination against women, gays and lesbians, a military supression, violations against immigrants.
FIFA,,,The governing body of soccer,allowed the games to be awarded to that country, despite its lack of ‘Democratic’ protocols. This is FIFA, whose President Sepp Blatter and others leaders, were fired for shady deals involving kickbacks and more.
Now FIFA has the audacity to write two letters this week. One was to the leaders of the 32-soccer federations, asking that the month of November be focused on futbol, the games, not on the political upheaval about who Qatar is.
Then came a second letter, where FIFA asked that Russia and Ukraine put a cease fire in effect for the duration of the World Cup. Just think about that. Let us enjoy the games, reap our profits, and stop the killing or the criticism till the champion is crowned.
TEAM USA…The second youngest roster in the history of the American side, led by young Euro star Christian Pulisic. Injuries are going to be part of the storylines, since the US has to hope goalie Matt Turner, Wes McKennie, Tyler Adams and more can stay on the pitch. Coach Greg Berhalter has a team with an average of 25. He bypassed veterans like Michael Bradley, John Brooks and young star Ricardo Pepi. Will this be a breakout tourney for young star Gia Reyna…they better hope so.
MEXICO…They are playing in the Group of Death, that includes legendary power Argentina and hi powered Poland, but El Tri has been engulfed in months of controversy over its roster. Coach Tato Martino left LA Galaxy star Javier ‘Chicarito’ Hernandez off the roster in a personality clash, despite the fact he scored 17-goals with the MLS side. They lost two goal scorers, Ramirez and Corona with leg injuries. Then young star Alejandro Zendejas refused to sign because of Martino’s leadership. It’s a mess.
ENGLAND…A most unique collection of talent from the English Premier League, names soccer fans know, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount and more. The Brits will face the USA in the second game of their group play.
INJURIES…You want to be healthy but they won’t be. France lost goal scorer Paul Pogba never got healthy. Mexico is down two goal scorers. Englisnd lost a striker. Senegal just lost star Sadio Mane, hurt playing in England.
THE VENUES…The tourney was positioned to stay away from the brutality of the summer heat of Qatar. The complaint that a number of the venues have been victimized by shoddy workmanship. The project marred by the death of 6,000-immigrant workers. Allegations of late payments or no payments to those on construction projects. The advance sale of over 2M-tickets. Controversy with a police state mentality against protestors. All stories that will be followed going forward, starting Sunday.
SPOTLIGHT…Enjoy the games , but don’t forget the real storylines, off the field.
The World Cup is the creme-de-creme of soccer stars.
But I cannot get away from the feeling that Qatar and FIFA are more linked to CORRUPTION than the futbol excellence.