Getting into the spirit of the beautiful game

By Pat Watson Wednesday June 18 2014 in Opinion
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On the very day of the provincial election at least one daily newspaper placed news of the opening of soccer’s World Cup in Brazil above the news of it being Election Day. It just goes to show how much we care about this exciting presentation of the beautiful game. It’s a safe bet that on that day, in Toronto at least, there were more people actively engaged in the goings on in Brazil than in participating in voting. Such is the unifying nature of this sport.

There are people talking about grudge matches because they remember such jarring moments as that game between Ghana and Uruguay in the last World Cup – that was the one in South Africa in 2010 – that shut out Ghana in the quarter-finals on a shootout that came after a controversial hand block by Uruguay’s Luis Suárez.

For those who are more politically minded, the focus on this Word Cup series has to do with the protests by hundreds of thousands of Brazilians who are angry about the billions spent to showcase the country and to host the games. They are angry because they feel that the monies spent should have been prioritized for the needs of everyday Brazilians instead. They are angry that homes were eradicated to make way for stadiums that will see little use after the games and will cost millions in upkeep.

It can be hard to separate the issues. Yet, in the heat of a game, when players are making impossible moves and goals are being scored with precision or by chance while being exemplars of poetry in motion, it seems everything else fades into the background.

Actually, it is that way with all forms of sports. We continue to admire the perfection of talent on the field, whether soccer, hockey, tennis, baseball, cricket. Whatever it is. 
We witness human physicality and skill focused on being the best in the moment and it reminds us of what we can be away from the other kinds of endeavours that result only in misery, abuse and bloodshed.

Here in Toronto, we have the unique opportunity to see how very much we are a collective of various countries and cultures. Aside from the actual location of the games, Toronto would have to be one of the best places to be during World Cup season because we get to participate in and enjoy the enthusiasm of all the countries whose teams are there in Brazil. If you can’t afford the time and a plane ticket, it is just a matter of heading to any one of the various neighbourhoods where massive television screens are running hot and the beer is flowing cold. 

In some neighbourhoods, like the Dufferin/St. Clair Corso Italia area, you wouldn’t even need your own television or radio to know who is winning and losing. The air there is saturated with the reactions of fans that record the ebb and flow of each game.

You can pick your politics and you can pick your team. What matters though is getting into the spirit of the beautiful game.

A note on magical thinking…

Now that the provincial election is over, media attention can go back to the Ford saga. In fact, within hours of the election results, there was a quote from Rob Ford’s campaign manager, brother Doug Ford, commenting on the need for the Conservatives in this province to go through a massive overhaul. Perhaps code for, ‘They need me, they really need me’. It would be hard to believe that those 383,501 individuals who voted for Rob Ford four years ago will make the same mistake again. Yet, because the Fords seem to have a sense of timing they signaled the notorious mayor’s imminent return to the campaign trail on July 1. 

These party animals just don’t seem to know when to stop. And, there will be those who will, for the sake of a free meal and a good-times party, jump back on the bandwagon. But, if people really care about this city, they will not encourage more of this public fiasco. Moreover, if they really care about Rob Ford, they will send him a message that he should allow himself more time for his purported recovery. 
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose. 

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