Almost half of the earth’s population (a total of 7.7 billion as of 2019) watched the exciting World Cup final match in Qatar with Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, as champions. In other words, more than 3 billion people watched!
Is there any other event in the world that keeps so many people riveted, for so long?
If the answer, as I think, is no, then the reasonable question is, what is the reason for its popularity? Is it in the undeniable artistry, is it the speed, the excitement of the game? Do we dream of ourselves in the place of the players? Or is it due to these and in addition to some other factors? And if so, which ones?
To analyze this and to come to a conclusion, it is useful to look back to our own childhood in Greece. When all the (mostly) boys, regardless of whether they went to school or not, kicked a ball – for hours. Wearing shoes – or even without shoes. With a regular ball or with a “ball” made of grass or something else, at some random “stadium” or, more likely, in an open field.
It was there that they gave their all and imagined that one day they would become another Mimis Domazos or even another Pele.
Something similar is repeated every day in almost every country in the world.
So, what is the common denominator, the element that makes a child in Greece or Argentina, etc. play ball instead of hockey, baseball or American football?
It must be the cost. A child from a family struggling financially can play ball because the cost is small. It cannot cover the huge expenses of American sports – it is beyond their financial means.
And another factor is that a poor, talented child sees soccer stars who were once like him acquiring a great fortune and that child dreams of escaping poverty through soccer.
Ah soccer, it started in the poorer old days as the ‘king of games’ – putting down very deep roots and still remaining the ‘king’.
However, soccer is also taking root in the U.S. now, as demonstrated by its team’s relatively good performance in the World Cup.
Why is this so? More than likely it is due to the influence of the children of immigrants, mainly Latinos. And also the fact that the contact and knowledge of the sport, as well as the popularity enjoyed by soccer in the rest of the world, draws American children.
Besides, the influence of immigrants in the teams of other countries, such as in the great team from France, is significant.
However, this does not imply that poor countries constantly beat more developed ones or have some invisible advantage. This is not necessarily true, as evidenced by the facts.
However, soccer is, and will remain, a sport where the field of action is -almost- even for poor and rich countries.
Unfortunately, the cancer of corruption seems to have infiltrated this sport as well, as it probably did with Qatar.