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Update
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Takeaways from the World Cup

It is not the success of one team that makes a tournament successful but the impact it creates on players and fans alike that truly make it memorable

04th August 2018, 07:41 Hrs

‘An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment’, is the literal and dictionary definition of sport. However, going by the statement, even a political rally would double up as a sport, for sure there’s entertainment. Sport, on the other hand, is much more than physical exertion or a physical movement. It possesses the power to engage the whole world in a conspiracy of camaraderie and freedom, regardless of nationality, caste and creed. While we get to experience the extravaganza at all major championships and World Cups, special mention be given to the recent spectacle which was high on all the essential quotients -- FIFA World Cup 2018 that concluded a month ago in Russia.  

Of the 32 highly competitive teams which made to the world stage, only one emerged rightfully  

victorious, as is the norm. Regardless, there are several other takeaways from this year’s world cup which amidst the hullabaloo and fervour went subconsciously unnoticed. It is not the success of one team that makes a tournament successful but the impact it creates on players and fans alike that truly make a tournament memorable. Where else would you see a host of people sitting together donning their respective national colors while downing cans of beer? Or where else would you catch an atheist murmuring under his breath with palms stuck together, totally unaware of his actions? Sport serves as a platform for people from around the world to come together and let loose, and that in itself is the beauty of a strong sports culture. Football being the most popular sport, the magical world it creates once every four years, is at another level of human imagination, more like a getaway from a monotonous or mechanical life into a realm of everything extraordinary. Imagine scores of people flocking to the stadiums who may have nothing in common except their shared love for the game. A heart-melting picture of an Iranian national that went viral because of the stark contrast in her ID picture and the lady herself, speaks volume of the sense of freedom sports can create in the minds of people.  

Talking more technically about the World Cup, the introduction of VAR (Video Assisted Referee) was a game-changer this tournament and application of this assistance in the coming tournaments will prove to be fruitful, if not essential. The prospect of having a VAR sure came in after much criticism and allegations, but after a dozen matches, the new referee proved why it is here to stay. Application of VAR in further matches and tournaments will also make players more honest, accountable and aware; and prevent them from indulging in unnecessary theatrics, pertaining to which the results most often speak otherwise. Some of the teams who benefited majorly through VAR are the teams which came into the tournament as minnows. The small teams did not just come to Russia to make up the numbers, but indeed went back adding numbers to records and statistics. World football has undergone a tremendous change in the last four years, and this was only the beginning of a new era of football with new stars emerging from every team. The latest example of this being the first-time finalists Croats who thwarted the English to go into the finals and send the latter packing home.  

Not everything can be merry in times of human evolution and the vast history that we hold behind us is a testament to this fact. Just like how every coin has two sides, a tournament also has its share of embarrassment. While FIFA 2018 proactively attempted to put a positive light on quite a few perspectives from fighting racism to promoting an inclusive sport tolerant of different faiths, sexes et al, it fell short of curbing trolls and criticism that seem to have become a plaque of the millennials. A player of the highest stature, who came to be known as German player of the year not once or twice but a record five times, to be tagged as a traitor for having born into a family of mixed nationalities is indeed shameful. Teams and players have time and again taken to wearing armbands as a sign of showing respect towards a certain cause or belief, so it’s natural that the players who offer so much respect get some in return, without they having to ask for it. Mesut Ozil’s decision of hanging up his boots at a young age of 29 might be debatable for some but he set a right example of bravery by detaching himself from the negativity. Ending a career in the national team to which you’ve given your sweat and blood isn’t easy, and if the same is not appreciated, or rather is being questioned, it is mindful to walk away than to scream into the cameras pleading innocence. Who’s at a bigger loss here, anyway?  

Moreover, an era-long debate over Messi v/s Ronaldo finally seems to have come to an end, not because there is an answer found as to who is better of the two, but because football has become (as it always was) much more than either of the two. All in all, last two months brought out a different side of Football to the world where the geographical dynamics have changed drastically and the game is no longer confined only to the big four teams or the star players that were!  

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