My memory is the night of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany final between Italy and France.
In Rome, where I was working at the time, I was covering an outdoor public viewing event. I couldn’t see the big screen at the venue packed with about 150,000 people.
When I went to the police rest area, there were only 13 police officers (an eerie number) and I was welcomed. The match was eventful. France’s Zinedine Zidane has been sent off after headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi.
After a 1–1 draw at the end of extra time, the match went to penalties. One young police officer started doing backflips as an act of good luck on the shot. Finally, all 14 people there knelt down and prayed. Italy won.
People tend to be pitifully superstitious when they root for the team they support. British writer Nick Hornby is no exception.
In his autobiographical tale of his enthusiastic support for Arsenal Football Club, Fever Pitch, he wrote that he tried “lucky socks, lucky shirts, lucky hats, lucky friends.”
He even tried to exclude other friends who he felt would only bring trouble to the team.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has just started. This World Cup has been controversial with international criticism over suspected human rights violations of foreign workers involved in the construction of related facilities.
There are calls in Europe to boycott the event. This controversy dampens our joy and enthusiasm for the teams and players we support.
Jules Rimet (1873-1956), the third president of FIFA and creator of the World Cup, managed to strike a fine balance between ideal and reality. In his memoir, Rimet stressed the importance of sport’s “social value” and “human value”. He also expressed dissatisfaction with being treated as a promoter.
It has been 92 years since the first FIFA World Cup was held. Bogged down in commercialism and various vested interests, the key values of the event seem to be undermining.
I’m one of those pathetic fans, but I’d like to maintain a cool demeanor toward sports celebrations.
Asahi Shimbun November 20
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column covering a wide range of topics such as culture, art, social trends and developments. Written by a veteran Asahi Shimbun reporter, this column offers useful perspectives and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.