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Monday, April 15, 2024

A long-time World Cup fan

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THE very first FIFA World Cup that I saw on television and followed keenly was the 1978 Mexico World Cup where Argentina with the great Mario Kempes emerged triumphant. At that time, not many games were shown on local television, so I along with those who love the “Beautiful Game” were reliant on what was reported in the newspaper and on television for the highlights that were shown at 7 p.m. For the longest time, I kept the Time magazine with Kempes on the cover.

A year earlier, Brazilian great Pele’s final match was televised—whether it was live or delayed I cannot remember—where he played one half for the New York Cosmos and the second half for his Brazilian club Santos.

Pele scored for the Cosmos in the first half. When he switched jerseys, his New York substitute, Ramon Mifflin, knocked in the winning goal, 2-1. But Pele’s spectacular goal off a free kick is what millions along with myself remember.

As I recall it, more than 75,000 fans packed Giants Stadium in New Jersey to watch the match live and there were millions more watching on television.  The next year, the Mexico World Cup was shown on local television (although select matches). As an elementary school student, I could not stay up late or get up even earlier to watch matches so I caught the replays that were shown at more favorable time slots.

Since then, I followed football religiously, switching allegiances from the New York Cosmos to Liverpool Football Club and then watching as many leagues and matches as I could. And since then, I have watched football across Asia, Europe and North America.

In doing so, I have also made many friends from abroad. I have interviewed many famous footballers from David Beckham, Fabio Cannavaro, Steven Gerrard, Hugo Lloris, Michael Owen and Landon Donovan to name a few. And coaches like Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, Bruce Arena and David Moyes.

Older and with more purchasing power, I could stay up late, go to the pubs to watch with other fans and buy football kits here and abroad.

However, the dream for me is to watch a World Cup match or two live. And am seriously considering watching when the next edition rolls around in 2026 in North America.

I read about Abdullah Al Salmi trek 1,600 kilometers from his native Saudi Arabia to Qatar on foot across the desert. It took him 55 days to do so but he received help through food and water from people along the way. And when he arrived in Qatar, many Qataris and football fans greeted and welcomed him.

What an inspiration. How many people would walk across the desert in that inhospitable heat?

My good friend Rely San Agustin was able to watch three matches this World Cup (England, Argentina and Portugal) and I was very happy for him to achieve a long-time dream.

This Qatar World Cup, I have watched almost every single match on World Cup TV via TapGo TV with its excellent features and coverage. Yes, I did stay up and have also paid the price by being a bit lethargic and sleepy the next day at work. But as it is said, this happens only every four years.

I think this World Cup has recovered from the embarrassing scenes when the host nation lost to Ecuador, 2-nil, in the competition opener when there were many empty seats after the first half. Of course, that is due to the highly competitive matches and upsets that have characterized this World Cup.

By the time this column sees print, either France or Argentina will have been crowned as champions. Even now, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has thrown it out there that Qatar could arguably be the best World Cup. Just when I thought that 2018 in Russia was awesome, well, Qatar—issues aside—has surpassed them.

There will be a lot of talk and debate over the next few weeks. But ultimately, all that can only be settled four years from now.

Oh, I can’t wait.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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