Some years ago there was wonderful English cartoon showing a football-mad husband wearing an England jersey in front of the television and a food tray surrounded by crates of beer, cartoons of crisps (chips), the phone handy and a list of takeaway joints. The wife heads out the door with a large suitcase saying,“See you in a month, I’m off to my sister’s.”

by Roger Childs

Time for the big event 

It’s that time again for the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup which is played every four years, and this time Qatar is the venue. The choice of the Persian Gulf state has aroused huge controversy and there is a strong suspicion that FIFA delegates received handsome bribes to give the oil rich country the nod. (Such accusations have also been made in previous years.)

Qatar was supposed to hold the prestigious tournament in the Northern Hemisphere summer after the various club competitions had finished, but the authorities move it to the cooler Fall – early Winter, much to the annoyance of European countries in particular. The expectation had been that all the matches would be played in air-conditioned covered stadia. As regards the match venues, there are reports that thousands of migrant workers died building the new grounds, but Qatar claims that only 35 of the work force passed away. 

The country has also come in for major criticisms over its human rights record from Amnesty International, journalists and commentators. On their list:

  • exploitation of foreign workers
  • unequal treatment of women
  • anti-LBGTQAI legislation
  • strict control of alcohol sales.

The details of the month-long tournament

  • From 21 November to 19 December
  • 32 teams in eight groups
  • In each group each team plays all the others and the top two qualify for the next round. Then it’s down to eight for the quarter-finals.
  • Brazil, who have won the World Cup five times, are the favorites, however Argentina, England, France, Spain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are all possible winners.

Highlights and lowlights from the past

  • Pub quiz question — Which team was the only unbeaten side in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? Answer: New Zealand with three draws.
  • In 1986 the legendary Diego Maradona scored against England in the quarter-finals after a clear “hand ball”. The referee didn’t see it so the goal stood.  It has always been known as the “Hand of God” goal. Argentina won 2-1 with Maradona scoring the second goal after a brilliant mid-field run.
  • Back in 1950 when few Americans played the game, the USA beat England 1-0 in shock result. 
  • In 2010 Frank Lampard “scored” a goal against Germany when the ball went over the line off the bar but the referee didn’t see it. With no goal line technology it wasn’t given and the German goalie just gathered the ball in and threw it down field. Germany eventually won, however the incident did lead to technology being developed to avoid a repeat of the incident. 
  • Back in 2015 football expert David Daniel commented Swiss Sepp Blatter was voted in for a 5th term as head of FIFA, the largest sporting federation on the planet. The democratic system that we cherish, has a disturbing ability to pass leadership on to the most crooked, self-serving and incompetent of those that run for office. Corruption charges against Blatter were proven and he was ejected form office later in the year. Other FIFA official suffered the same fate and some ended up in jail.

Exciting times for football (soccer) fans

Qatar only qualified because they are the hosts and they were beaten 2-0 by Ecuador in the opening match. There are 63 games to come and there will be tens of millions of fans around the world tuning it. 

Heaps of beer, crisps and takeaways will be consumed and not doubt hundreds of wives and partners will be off to stay with relatives. 

A funny to finish off with.

Did you hear about the guy who was in his expensive seat just before the World Cup Finals but with an empty seat beside him. A man came up and asked why an expensive seat was going begging. The guy explained that his wife had recently passed away and it was her seat. The man said that surely one of his relatives could have taken the seat.

“No,” he said,“they’re all at the funeral.”