Sports Eye

Football mania

By Jesus A. Garcia, Jr.


AFTER 14-day nostalgic exploration of Spain, it was another14-hour journey and thanks to God I arrived home safe and sound. My first voyage to this European country is so memorable that I don’t think I will ever forget it. It’s a lengthy tale that this space can’t accommodate all that happened to me. Anyway, I already gave you some stories in my last three columns and I believe that should be enough, my dear readers.

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The much-awaited 2018 World Cup in football hosted by Russia this year officially kicked off last Sunday (June 17). And I do hope that despite the fact that we are not crazy about football, you still took time to watch the opening ceremony live on television. As expected, Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA top honcho Gianni Infantino were there at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

Similar to what happened at the 1980 Olympics hosted by Moscow, Russia, some of the invited national leaders of the participating countries particularly the former Soviet states like Georgia, Ukraine and U.S. boycotted the affair to protest Russia’s annexation of the tiny state of Crimea four years ago. Politics reared its ugly head again this time against Russia that waited 16 years to host the quadrennial meet.  Fortunately, despite the brouhaha, Russia still managed to open the meet successfully and with a victory to boot against Saudi Arabia, 5-0, to the delight of the partisan crowd that included, of course, Putin who stayed to watch the match. The Russian squad duplicated its victory by edging Egypt, 2-1. Russia is definitely a strong title contender this time.

According to the survey, football (called soccer by other countries) is the number one favorite sport of the world, especially by the Europeans and the South Americans. Unfortunately, this is not the sport of perennial Olympic champion United States, as well as our country Philippines. U.S. top three favorites are baseball, rugby (American football) and basketball.

In our country, basketball is still tops. In fact. The survey says we are the only nation in the world that loves basketball so much, though we lack the height. Yes, isn’t that odd? We’re not tall people so with zero hope in world basketball medal in the Olympics or World Championships, we should be shifting our national sport to football, a sport where ‘height is not might’ unlike in basketball and volleyball.

My example is the five-foot-and-a-half Lionel Messi of Argentina who was ranked number one football player in the world for long time and now rated number three after Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Neymar of Brazil.

As of this writing (June 21), the biggest three stories in the World Cup (WC) this year was the colossal upset of world 15th rated Mexico over defending champion and top ranked Germany, 1-0. We also watched how the five-time champion, second ranked Brazil was held to a 1-1 draw by sixth ranked Switzerland and No. 22 Iceland tied former world champion Argentina.

Well, “the ball is round,” as the saying goes. The 2014 WC is not 2018 WC. For sure I expect more upsets to happen during this year’s football mania. Hopefully I’m not wrong.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before Me, says the Lord God. JEREMIAH 2: 22


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