The allure of the World Cup

The 2014 World Cup is finally over. In retrospect, many would wish they had not invested as much emotionally as they did.

The very nature of the tournament makes it a cruel mistress that leaves all but a select few disillusioned and dejected.

In the beginning, participating countries and their supporters come into the tournament hoping for the sort of miracle that can lift a nation’s spirits, and perhaps cure — albeit in the short term — the melancholia of everyday life.

They become obsessed and distracted, unable to replicate in life the same spirit and enthusiasm drawn upon to watch football matches.

More importantly, they turn a blind eye to the fact that the World Cup is rigid, merciless and designed in a way that ensures that for every winner there are two or more losers, making it an unbalanced dichotomy.

Ivory Coast was about 30 seconds away from qualifying into the round of 16 when, devastatingly, a penalty that shouldn’t have been was awarded to their opponent, Greece. The former champion Spain, along with the host Brazil, were stunned 5-1 and 7-1, respectively, shocking the world and dismaying their supporters.

After holding Argentina to a tie until the very last minute, Iran, a team filled with mediocre footballers, conceded a goal courtesy of Lionel Messi.

Mexico, up by a goal in the 80th minute against a considerably stronger Dutch side, conceded two in the span of five minutes — enough to end their World Cup dreams.

These are only a few of the mentally shattering, heartbreaking stories from the World Cup. Yet in four years’ time, millions of people will once again invest in the World Cup, risking the inevitable heartbreak and temporary psychological meltdown. With that said, it is natural to wonder why football mesmerizes so many people.

It could be that it is in human nature to be drawn to sensational events such as the World Cup. It could also be that the World Cup for many is more than just 32 teams vying for a prestigious trophy.

In countries like Brazil, Argentina and Columbia, where football has remained ripe and indispensable, the World Cup serves not only as a metaphorical escape, but also a literal one.

It manufactures an illusion of hope and triumph, which for many is enough to make life richer than it would have been in the absence of such an illusion. Its capriciousness is what makes it so infuriating, but it’s also what makes it entertaining.

Unlike many other sporting events, the World Cup is able to truly unite the world, be it in the face of victory or disappointment. At the time of the game, regardless of differences in time zones, culture and religion, we all become uncharacteristically empathetic and able to identify with both the losers and the victors.

This, more than anything else, is the allure of the World Cup. And the football culture, regardless of its obvious pitfalls, will continue to grow in the decades to come.

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