The Beautiful Game?
The 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany ™ -
Will it really be a game of two halves?
2006 has already had a busy agenda for all sport fans e.g. the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, The Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, The Six Nations Rugby Union tournament (won by France), Australia vs. South Africa (cricket) in South Africa etc… The summer months of June and July have the potential to be overtaken by Football Fever. The build up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany ™ started a long time ago but the opening game is on Friday 9 June (18:00 CET) at the FIFA World Cup stadium in Munich: Germany v. Costa Rica. Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron designed the stadium.
Before I continue, one cultural difference needs to be addressed. In countries such as U.S.A and Australia, who are both in the tournament, this sport is referred to as Soccer. There are vast differences between American Football or Australian Rules Football compared to the Football that is typically played each week throughout the U.K, Europe, South America etc…
The President of FIFA is Herr Joseph Sepp Blatter, born in the Swiss town of Visp and currently lives in Zürich. He believes that football bears a responsibility to society and has been involved in different global humanitarian projects.
FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Headquarters is in Zürich.
The website www.myswitzerland.com has devised a comical and clever marketing campaign offering an alternative for those who may wish to get away from the saturated football coverage. It does target women, which is an inaccurate stereotype. Some of my female ex-work colleagues are proud owners of annual football season tickets and enthusiastically enter into football predictor competitions with much success.
For some people, football is more than just a game. Bill Shankley (born in Scotland), one of the successful managers of Liverpool FC and other clubs, famously said: -
”Some people say football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
As the football players taking part in the World Cup enter into the final training period. The marketing media moguls will be hoping their planned campaigns will be successful. Merchandise can be purchased in a variety of retail outlets and there will be many imaginative ways to link services and goods to the World Cup. Procter and Gamble have incorporated the topical football theme into some of their packaging.
Europa- Park in Rust, Germany has the World’s biggest Football. The official mascot of the 2006 FIFA World Cup TM is strong as a lion – GOLEO VI. The lion mascot features on magazine-covers, appears in shops and am sure will be available as a screen saver for PCs and mobile telephones. The following photograph was taken in the department store Manor: -
The Coop have devised a fun game for their website. You can take part in a Penalty Shootout: Penalty Schiessen on the website link:-
I empathise with the pressure some parents may feel they are under to ensure their children have the latest football kits and merchandise. The researchers for the magazine WHICH? has published a report indicating how some of the children’s replica shirts cost nearly the same amount as the adult shirts. This may only apply to the U.K. but I assume the manufacturers globally are making the most of the increased demand. More information can be seen on: -
Football songs are popular and help to provide a great atmosphere at the football stadiums. If anyone has taken part in singing You’ll Never Walk Alone with thousands of other fans they will understand what a memorable experience that is. I have been to Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, U.K. and was overwhelmed by the noise in the stadium and surprised to hear Irish songs being sung prior to the game. Once I read some details about the history of Celtic football club, the inclusion of some Irish songs started to make sense. The ‘Official Song’ of the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 TM is ‘Time of Our Lives’ written by Swedish songwriter Jorgen Elofsson. The song is due to be performed at the opening ceremony. The official album of the 2006 FIFA World Cup is entitled ‘Voices.’ It includes the 2006 FIFA World Cup TM anthem by Herbert Gronemeyer, ‘Zeit, dass sich was dreht’ (Celebrate the Day) which has a poignant video to accompany the song. The song, “We are the Champions” by the group Queen sometimes proves popular at football tournaments.
The magazine National Geographic has some interesting articles covering different corners of football and exploring why football (soccer) evokes so much passion across the globe. There is an article explaining why the mighty Brazil football team are so popular and successful. Also there is an insight into the powerful force of football in Africa.
Details can be seen on: -
During the tournament, the Beckham Brand (as one example) will make the most of the large global audience.
David Beckham is cleverly marketed so that he appeals to both a male and female client base. Potential future sponsorship deals are there for the taking for all those perceived to be winners. David and Victoria Beckham hosted a glamorous charity gala to send off the England football team, aptly entitled, “Full Length and Fabulous Ball” on Sunday 21 May 2006. The party took place in a marquee the size of a football pitch in their Hertfordshire home in England, U.K. The designer dresses were out in force and so were the celebrities e.g. Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, with her daughter Princess Beatrice, Joan Collins, and Lulu. The leader of the British Conservative party David (just call me Dave) Cameron was shaking the flesh, as only politicians can, along with his wife Samantha. He was also promoting one of his latest themes of investing in GWB- General Well Being. This is in relation to having a healthy work life balance. Robbie Williams and James Brown provided the after dinner entertainment. The footballer Wayne Rooney and girlfriend Colleen were allegedly dancing away. All eyes were on Wayne’s broken metatarsal. England fans are keeping everything crossed that Wayne will be part of their world cup team. Many England fans have become experts on broken toes and the best cures. The word metatarsal has never been repeated so much in the media.
Robbie Williams took part in a charity football match Soccer Aid raising money for UNICEF. The Grand Final was played at Old Trafford, Manchester, England, U.K. on Saturday 27 May 2006. Some of the other famous names that also took part were Paul Gascoigne, Peter Schmeichel and Diego Maradona. Details can be seen on: -
Like everything, everyone, and every country, there is a good and bad, beautiful and ugly side to Football.
Some of the more famous footballers have opened football academies for young children, encouraging both girls and boys to utilise the talent they have e.g. The David Beckham Academy has locations in Greenwich, London, England, U.K. and in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. The Bobby Charlton Soccer Camp is in Manchester, England, U.K.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, famously known as Pelé, still provides a role model for many children and adults although he made his World Cup debut in 1958 at the age of 17.
Football can provide benefits for the local community in many different ways e.g. in the U.K. the crime rate (not serious crime) in one area dropped after a youth football centre opened. The notion of investing in social capital is enhanced when all members of the community are involved in social networking e.g. youth club groups etc..
One of the poorest countries in South America, Bolivia, is trying to find ways to fight the drug problem using football focus. Some of the children end up living on the streets after facing enormous obstacles for those so young. The Tahuichi football academy in Santa Cruz provides hope for the future and a sense of self-esteem. Allegedly the academy does not receive help from the government and relies on sponsors. More information can be seen on: -
CNN reported how prisoners representing the national soccer teams of Argentina and Ivory Coast played a soccer match at a prison unit in La Plata, 57km south of Buenos Aires in May 2006. Some 32 prison teams in Buenos Aires province will play their own version of the World Cup. This positive focus on football hopefully provides a chance for rehabilitation.
Some Football clubs and players have been and remain involved in charitable causes but some of the most inspirational stories I have found in relation to this topic stem from Africa. There is the Sierra Leone’s amputees’ football team. They are all victims of the West African nation’s brutal civil war. Many lost limbs through land mines, bullets, and atrocious attacks with machetes. The fact that most of them have lost one limb does not deter them from enthusiastically enjoying football and energetically balancing on their crouches. There are no towels, fancy tracksuits, and kit bags at the edges of the makeshift beachside pitch. The sport has not only provided entertainment, but helped spread a message of hope. One of the players said, “Now we don’t feel that much disabled anymore, we can play football too.”
KitAid is a charity that sends clean, unwanted football shirts to children and adults across Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. It is a stirring story of how one man, an employee of Three Valleys Water in the U.K., visited Tanzania with the charity WaterAid. Derrick Williams realised that the young children in the local village shared his passion of football. On his return from Tanzania in 1998 he organised the first box of donated football kit to be sent to the children he had met. This gesture led Derrick Williams to set up KitAid. The donations do bring smiles to the children’s faces and do make a difference to their lives.
Details can be seen on: -
In April 2006 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and sports stars held a special event in New York. The focus was on how sport plays a vital role for development and peace. The special adviser on Sport for Development and Peace is Adolf Ogi, a former president of Switzerland. Roger Federer, Spokesperson for the Year was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, commented on how children are often deprived of things in life we take for granted. In summary, sport and physical education in combination with existing efforts can have positive affects to help with poverty reduction, education, and gender equality. More information can be seen on: -
If one looks at the website www.FIFAworldcup.com details can be seen of the official Charity Campaign of the 2006 FIFA World Cup ™ aiming to fund the construction of six new SOS Children’s Villages, one each in Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Ukraine and Vietnam.
In the BBC1 TV series, Elephant Diaries, it was shown how orphaned elephants were looked after in a nursery in Nairobi run by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. One of the methods used to help the traumatised orphaned elephants socialise with the new group was for the workers to play football with the elephants. Obviously, a football made of durable material is required in these circumstances.
Football can also help with the education and awareness of different cultures. For example both Iran and the U.S.A are in the World Cup. Although diplomatic relations between these two countries may be currently at a delicate phase, this tournament may help break down some barriers in a small way. The website www.FIFAworldcup.com provides details of the different countries’ flags, official language, currency etc..
An infamous example of how two opposing sides can be drawn together by football was during World War I. During the ‘Christmas Truce’ of 1914, soldiers laid down their arms to meet in No Man’s Land to exchange food, cigarettes and play football. Allegedly, British, German, French, and Belgium troops took part.
Although football has the potential to unite it also has the ability to divide.
Some say racism is the most serious problem in football today. In November 2004, thousands of Spanish fans hurled racist abuse at England’s black players every time they came near the ball. The Spanish government did issue a statement condemning unequivocally the behaviour of the ‘small group’ of fans. In February 2006, the Cameron born, Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o began to walk off the pitch 15minutes before the end of the football match against Real Zaragoza (Spanish Primera Liga). The continuous chorus of ape noises from the crowds became too much for the player. Samuel Eto’o was persuaded to stay and the club Real Zaragoza was fined EUR 9,000. The recent reports shown on Eurosport, of Spanish fans openly wearing swastikas and giving the Nazi salute were disgraceful.
There have been reports in the media that black footballers and fans have been warned not to walk in certain areas of Germany in fear that they may be attacked. An Ethiopian-born engineer was beaten into a coma, in April 2006,in Potsdam outside Berlin. In May 2006, a German politician of Turkish origin, Giyasettin Sayan, was victim of alleged racist attack in the Lichtenberg district in East Berlin.
FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, said, “Recent events have demonstrated that there is a need for concerted action and an urgency for more severe measures… to kick this evil out of the beautiful game.”
Controversy followed Switzerland’s World Cup qualifying game against Turkey in November 2005. Allegedly, Benjamin Huggel from the Swiss team kicked a member of the Turkish staff as he ran from the field and this triggered other violent acts. This has resulted in Benjamin Huggel being suspended from six competitive matches and fined EUR10, 000. The Turkish Football Association has to pay a fine of EUR 130,000 and other severe disciplinary actions have been imposed on three players, the assistant coach, and the national team. Further appeals may be made against these decisions. Turkish players allegedly complained that during the first leg game in Bern they were insulted by the Swiss press, players, coach, and that Swiss fans blew whistles throughout the playing of the Turkish national anthem. It sounds as if the roots of this problem go far deeper than a sporting competitive spirit.
Switzerland is due to co-host the Euro 2008 football championships with Austria. Hopefully, lessons will be learned from this violent incident and the football hooliganism that I have witnessed in Switzerland that is not widely reported e.g. water cannons were used near the Inter Continental hotel in Badenerstrasse in Zürich as football fans battled with the police near Letzigrund (I think this was in 2005).
Anyone who has attended or is aware of the Celtic vs. Rangers games in Scotland, U.K. will realise the serious impact that distorted rivalry can have on the local community. The pressure the local ambulance workers, hospital staff, and police endure is immense on match days.
Racism and hooliganism has been a problem for football clubs throughout all parts of the U.K. for many years. Some of the fights are organised by groups of professionals who may initially fall outside the radar of the typical search for a thug.
The website www.kickitout.org shows details of positive action against racism and how this benefits the entire community.
Another ugly problem is the homophobic chants shouted at players. This appears to be the last unspoken frontier. If stars in Hollywood are fearful of coming out what hope do sports stars have. One recalls the tragic tale of the black gay footballer Justin Fashanu who committed suicide.
Recent legislation has also been introduced in an attempt to combat the growing problem of players cheating e.g. diving to try to influence the referee to award a penalty. One of the most famous alleged cheating incidents happened when Diego Maradona, in the quarterfinal match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup between England and Argentina, scored the Hand of God goal. In May 2006 the television channel BBC One broadcast a documentary entitled, ’When (Gary) Lineker Met (Diego) Maradona.’ Gary Lineker travelled to Argentina to interview Diego Maradona and discuss that goal. The show was entertaining and told the story of how Maradona has battled against many challenges since the height of his fame. Maradona described the Hand of God goal as craftiness, not cheating. It was refreshing to hear Gary Lineker speaking Spanish (he did play for Barcelona) as British citizens have a reputation for having limited foreign language skills and speaking loudly in English when abroad in hope this will help the local nationals understand them
Marcello Lippi came under pressure to resign as Italy’s coach following the continued investigations into the alleged corruption scandal involving the questionable selection of Italian footballers for the national team.
One has to ask; do real football fans get involved in violence, racism, and homophobic attacks?
Some criminals do hide behind the mask of football to engage in organised violence.
The famous words of the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme towards the end of the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany, played at Wembley Stadium, London, U.K. are still repeated: -
”And here comes Hurst he’s got……….some people are on the pitch they think it’s all over. It is now. It’s 4”
By 10 July 2006 it will be all over and the victorious nation can proudly hold the Jules Rimet Trophy in front of the world stage. Hopefully all the nations participating will be able to hold their heads high in the knowledge that they were not involved in any negative behaviour.
If you, your friends or your family are planning to travel to Germany to see the World Cup I hope you have a great time. If you are staying in Switzerland and arranging social gatherings for Xpats and Swiss Nationals to watch the games on TV, or at Pubs etc… have fun. This tournament may provide opportunities to make new friends. “A time to make friends TM” is the motto of the FIFA World CupTM
Results, news, information, quizzes, and lots more can be seen on: -
© Theresa Avery April 2006
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