SPORTS TALK: The fun, frolic (and collusion) of the 2018 FIFA World Cup

NNSL- June 23, 2018

Russia, Russia, Russia.

It’s in the news these days for reasons we’re all aware of, but there’s also the FIFA World Cup happening there right now and there are always stories from the biggest sporting spectacle going today. Who am I cheering for, you may ask?One team: whoever’s playing England. So without further ado, let’s delve into what’s gone on so far:

How’s that for a stunner?

In any World Cup, Germany is the odds-on favourite all the time. My all-time favourite World Cup moment was the smackdown they laid on Brazil at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. I have never laughed as uproariously at a T.V. screen than I did watching that game with my dear departed grandfather.

Mexico’s Hirving Lozano became an instant legend when he scored the winning goal for his country against Germany at the FIFA World Cup in Russia on June 17. photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Germany, though, was on the other end of it against Mexico on June 17 in a game they were widely expected to win and really should have. The Mexicans managed to pull off a 1-0 stunner over the reigning champions and it set off the type of celebrations one would expect.

Even in Germany, a group of Mexican fans were cheering in the middle of a throng of German fans in Berlin, who did nothing except stare at the screen set up in the park. Some Mexican fan even thought it would be a good idea to propose to his fiancee after the win. Hey, why not? Everyone’s happy at that point and there was a great chance she would accept.

Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the Spanish announcer letting out the perpetual “Goooooooooool” call and there was a great one from the Mexican commentators.

All in all, a fiesta of fiestas. Don’t worry – Germany will bounce back.

How’s that for awesomeness?

Soccer fans take it too far sometimes and I’m not picking on them because they’re soccer fans. Several parents of youth athletes are 10 times worse and I speak from experience on that one having witnessed parents – even here in the North – figure they’re bigger than the game.

Soccer fans are also some of the kindest out there as well. I remember back in Toronto some years ago a friend of my grandfather’s was going through treatment for prostate cancer and happened to be a Glasgow Celtic fan. Guess who came through to raise close to $10,000 for the guy? Glasgow Rangers fans. I need not tell you how fierce the rivalry is between those two outfits but there’s respect.

Egypt is playing in its first World Cup in 28 years and opened up against Uruguay on June 15.

Thousands of fans who couldn’t get tickets were watching outside the stadium and that included one Egyptian fan in a wheelchair. Naturally, his view wasn’t as good as the able-bodied folk but cue the heroics from the Mexican and Colombian fans.

A group of them together lifted the fan – wheelchair and all – onto their shoulders so he could see Egypt kick off. The fan has since been identified as Alhaasan Sedky, an Egyptian student at the University of Texas-Arlington, but it goes to show that even though sports brings out the worst in people sometimes, there’s still some good that pops in from time to time.

How’s that for loyalty?

So we know Iceland is quickly becoming a soccer powerhouse. Not bad for a team whose manager, Heimir Hallgrimmson, still practises dentistry part-time.

They are the smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup, which automatically makes them the sentimental favourite of everyone who doesn’t have a team to cheer for, like Canada (surprise, surprise). But if you ever have any doubts about how popular they are, chew on this:

Iceland played Argentina in their opener on June 16 and it ended in a 1-1 draw. RUV, the country’s national broadcaster, released the viewing figures for that game on June 18 and it showed that 99.6 per cent of the country was tuned in. That isn’t a typo – 99.6 per cent. Even though it’s only a country of 334,000 people, that’s still an impressive number.

Here’s my question: what in the hell were the other 0.4 per cent doing?

And finally …

Good Idea: Flying to get to a game.

Bad Idea: Flying to a game and watching one of the wings go up in flames.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I hate to fly. It’s a necessity here in the North, but I still quiver on takeoff every single time.

And there’s a very good chance if I saw this while on a flight, I would be crawling over the disabled, the young and anyone else who’s immobile so I could crack the door open, get on the ground where I could help others all while sipping on a Diet Pepsi.

We take you aboard the plane carrying the Saudi Arabian squad as they headed from Moscow to Rostov-on-Don on a routine flight. Anything but routine on the landing, though, as the plane went mechanical upon descending. No big deal – just the wing catching fire. There’s a short video of it and the players are taking it all in stride. Everyone was safe and sound so crisis averted.

Again, had this been me, there’s a very good chance the person sitting next to me would have become part of the aircraft itself and I would be finding my Diet Pepsi.

Until next time, folks …

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