World Cup of Moscow: Some lessons

Radhakanta Barik

Russia is known as the sick man of the European football world. They spend their resources in developing sports culture which provides them the best results in Olympics. They played well by defeating Saudi Arabia by five goals. This was a rare event in the world cup competition, as usual defeating the opposite side by two or three goals. This may boost morale of the Russian team to progress easily to the Quarter Final. Moreover, their midfield was very creative in passing the ball to the strikers who did the finishing work aptly. Saudi Arabia got two good chances but couldn't realize the goal Match between Spain and Portugal showed that Ronaldo was not an ordinary player. Ferguson, the great manager of Manchester United in his autobiography says that he has never seen such a talented player of the world. He advised him to come back to the united after retiring from Real Madrid. Ronaldo showed that he was a real talent who could score three goals against the most powerful team Spain. He scored a memorable goal from the outside the penalty box which curled into the net.

Moscow always brings an earthquake in human history. It brought socialist revolution in early 19th century. After a century a new change is happening in the domain of sports. The world cup was held in Moscow. In the world cup history, for the first time the dominant players have lost their dominant positions to new players who are small footballing nations. Brazil and Costa Rica match showed its moment of tensions. It is a great match as Costa Rica showed their teeth against the mighty Brazil. The extra time brought goals by the top Brazilian players. It augured a new era in the world soccer which brought an egalitarian approach to the world cup. It was an open contest and became any body's game. It was worth celebrating the newness of the world cup politics.

Asian, African, European and South American people have congregated in Moscow for either participating in the World Cup or have come to enjoy the hospitality of people of Moscow. Moscow has drawn artists, writers and painters to come here and settled here. Puskin, the great writer with curly hair has an African origin. Lenin the greatest revolutionary after Marx and Engels has a Mongolite ethnicity. Many of artists are of European origin. A multi religious society feels a very secured in Moscow. Each football team whatever origin or of whatever religious background they were finding affinity in Moscow. This is the one of the cities one can interact with the Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Christians where they are not feeling discriminated. A nondiscriminatory society has emerged without any trace of feudalism explains the character of capitalism of Russia. Football teams from various continents were able to perform well because of the nature of Moscow and its hospitality of people here.

Argentinian style of playing in the world cup created a lot of hope and frustration. Yesterday Messi's goal created hope and once equalizer from the Nigerian came which created a lot of frustration. Indian family was burning mid night oil for seeing the beautiful game of football specifically Argentina and Nigeria. Passion and anger both worked out. In many families in India Messi is a part of their family panorama. Such a place one gives to Messi. As Argentina went to the second round more anxieties got generated in Indian family. The manager of Argentina team might take some advice like Indian family where three generations live together. Messi supported by the younger players like his seniors. Three generations of players could have worked together to maintain a tradition of playing which would  benefit Indians as they live with three generations at least psychologically if not physically. The team had strength but it required an organizational culture to make their sharpness in playing football with a special touch. This did not happen that made them an early exit from the world cup.

Exit of Germany from Moscow is being compared with the defeat of Hitler by Red Army of Soviet Russia. They have never conquered Russia. But it is too much as a transgression into the world of politics. But politics cannot be separated from sports as ruined Germany went to the world cup under the leadership of Beckanbear which won the world cup. Their economy got ruined in the world war. Their country got divided into West and East. But the West Germany became a powerful soccer team in the world cup. They won the world cup as they were ready to reorganise themselves into a team and with their spirited coordinated activities on the field they won. But they have strength and passion with themselves to beat any team. But this team looked tired and spiritless which made an easy exit from the qualifying matches in the first round. Moscow would teach them to organise only young energetic players to face the reality of the world cup.

 Many teams have improved themselves as the Asian teams such as Korea, Japan and Iran. It will not be an easy affair for the European countries to win in the future. The world cup in the second round where the game was as open as the Moscow society. Any society in Paris, London, Rome and Real Madrid one finds the lanes of the old palaces where the feudal lords used to live in. These feudal lords had an association with slave trade like the kings of Belgium. Extraction of resources from the colonies in involving in corrupt practices such as Clive and Warren Hastings of London having huge palaces in the city of London and extracting feudal rent from Latifundia  of South American one finds them in the city of Real Madrid. But Moscow has been built by destroying its feudal and ancient lineage where one can see the lanes where these landlords used to live in except writers like Tolstoy's house. If one searches Gogol's Dead Souls it is impossible to find out. It explains that Russian society is an open society where capitalism is growing.

 Moscow world cup has destroyed the feudal lineage within the world cup that only five six countries used to dominate because of their past experience or manipulation with the help of referees. Some of them have left in the group of 16. It was an open competition by which any country could reach the top. The world cup in Moscow had changed the texture and tonality of the soccer. It proved a point that no team was powerful or weak. Every team was strong in the stage of world cup. But it needed a coordinated effort by the team members to beat their opponent. It needed a strategy and thinking to work out one’s plan.  Many teams changed their tactics while playing. This happened with the Russian team once they could score an equalized goal against Spain then they changed the strategy by concentrating on defence. That made them to win in the penalty kicks against the Spain. The same thing happened in the case of Croatia against Denmark.

It was very much intense match between Mexico against the Brazil. Political environment of Mexico has changed in electing a left progressive leader to be their Prime Minister who will fight against the American imperialism. This environment motivated the Mexican team to beat Brazil, although Brazil was a strong team. Politics impinged the playing a mass game like football. Collective consciousness might guide the team to work out a strategy to win the game today. But in the game there is always an element of uncertainty. That's why it is known as the game.

In the group of 16 the matches were turning into wars where strategies were being worked out to create fear in the minds of their opponents. In the end as it was a knockout game and to beat your opponent by playing according to the script. This happened in the match between Russia vs Spain. In the end a powerful team Spain was out of the world cup. Two matches were worth noting: Argentina vs France where both the teams played so well but defeat of Argentina was in the hands of France where a young teen aged player showed that he could play taking the image of Pele with pace and passion in a single handedly by scoring two goals against Argentina. But Argentina played well but lost to France. The second match Japan vs Belgium where Japan showed its magic by scoring two goals but could not beat Belgium as they lost to a powerful and talented team. This shows that it is a game and anybody can be beaten. Over confidence did not work in the Moscow world cup.

Quarter final matches of the world cup are always exciting and entertaining with its intensity and passion. Imagine the match between England and Argentina which brought the hand of god by Mardona and his famous goal in a singlehandedly. English nation got kneeled down so badly that England after a long gap had come to play this time in Quarterfinal. People always remember the quarter final matches between great teams which create a lot romance. There were some of the exciting matches between great teams which were well prepared to face the world cup. World Cup was shown in the Doordarshan under the pressures from the football lovers from Bengal, fortunately that was the time a Bengali gentleman was the I &B minister. It was shown only the quarter finals onward. We got a chance to see the world cup which created the hero Mardona a great midfielder. Prior to this the world cup was being played by the strikers such as Pele. Midfielders continued to control the space by which they were the defenders and they were the strikers. Moscow world cup had changed the grammar of the football match. It had shifted from the midfield to the defence. In the quarter finals the match between the Brazil vs Belgium was over in the first fifteen minutes where the defense of the Belgium stood like a wall. Only by crossing the wall one could score the goal. Failure of the Brazil created a self-goal which was headed by a player from defence of Belgium. The attacks on Belgium came from Brazil three times which got blunted by their defense. After that self-goal, Brazil could not stand in the match and they collapsed. The other goal came because of failure of the Brazilian defence.

World Cup in Moscow got into a critical stage where many top teams lost a control over their nervous system. It was the mental strength which matters in this stage. In every field of life one while reaching its destination point one loses control over its mind. He may be the greatest player like Mardona missed his penalty kick at the final of the world cup. But other players helped the Argentina team to win the cup. The same thing happened in the case of England while playing in the semifinal, suddenly lost its control over the ball after the first half which they could not bring back their balance. Belgium could not score against France knowing well it was the defence of the French team helped them to win in not the strikers and midfielders. It was an interesting final between Croatia vs France, France kept its mental balance and played in the final summer heat of Moscow. It was heat of Moscow affected the energy of the players and affecting their imagination where their creativity was vanishing sometime.

World Cup in Moscow brings every team on equal plane no body is great or small. This proves our point that Moscow in capitalist world today stands for egalitarian values support equality and justice. This is the mistake committed by England as they ignored Croatia as a small player. Once one ignores one cannot plan for confronting the opponent in a planned manner. This reflected in their attitude against Croatia. After scoring a goal they started hibernating which affected them so badly. That Croatian player scored a goal by kicking the ball by a leg over the head of a defence player of England. This showed that they had an immense energy which got exhibited by their players on the field. Final between France vs Croatia we felt nearer to France as their society is a multi-religious multi ethnic like our society. Football is a mass game where love and brotherhood prevailing, but Croatia thought that they were in war and in sports. It's grown out of hatred in Croatia.

The World Cup is over. But the impact will linger for some time. French team won the cup and there was a huge crowd on the street in celebrating the victory. There was a discussion in French channel where many points of view got discussed. One point raised by a scholar that French African migrants played as French players because the government has created sports infrastructure in suburban areas and these players have come up to this level because of these facilities created in suburban areas. There showed their concern that how to improve further by which they can integrate into popular culture of France. Sports, fashion and politics, theater are topics covered in thetheir discussions in Coffee House which is the centre of popular culture. It will be interesting to remind that Sartre used to write all his great classics sitting in Coffee House. He came to the street to protest against the racialism in 1967 while students went on movement.

Modi as the Prime Minister of India could have created some infrastructures for minorities such as more universities or sports complexes and then told that there was an appeasement of minorities by the previous government. On the contrary these institutions such as Aligarh or Jamia were built during colonial period and these are threatened by Modi Sarkar. Recently, he has given a slogan for 2019 general election Hindutva vs Minority appeasement. World Cup final between France vs Croatia had some Jesse Owens moments. Owens a great player won four gold medals in the Olympics of 1936. Hitler refused to shake hands with him and the President of America did not invite him to the White House. Both of them suffered from ultranationalism where racialism was an integral part. He went and shook hands with his counterparts from Germany and told him why you felt so much anger while playing that the Germany player told the story of Hitler who advised him to be an ultranationalist. Once Owens explained a point that sports was a part of love not of anger he cooled down and the Germany player won the game. The match between France and Croatia had a semblance of ultranationalism of Croatians that resulted in creating own goal and missing scoring an easy goal as they dominated the space and had 60 percentage of occupation time as a French player telling in French channel that in reality Croatia won the world cup.

The utlranationalism of the RSS has created fear in their minds and they refused to see the game as French a multi-racial, multi religious team won the world cup. They are suffering from this ultranationalism.

But Germany  wanted to win the world cup of second time which no team had won.Team led by Mardona and French team led by Zidane could not win the second time. No body can do any thing with the aging where as the world cup requires young and a well prepared team to face their opponents. The match between Panama and Belgium is an entertaining one. Panama is exploited and mutilated by American imperialism could come to the world cup whereas USA has not succeeded to be one of the 32 countries participating in the world cup. Football is the major sports activity which provides an intense entertainment to the wider audience. They could restrain the activities of Belgium for a period sixty minutes. Yes they lost by three goals to the most talented team of the world cup this time. This explains that Panama have talents and skills to play but they do not have exposure like Belgian players. Most of them are playing in the most important clubs of the world. Most of players from Panama are amateurs who have not exposed to clubs and money making business. The philosophy of the world cup is to encourage the amateur players where it has been grabbed by players who are money spinners. They had intensity and energy to restrain the Belgium and kept the audience engaged in looking at their passes and attacks on the Belgium. It is very satisfying match in the world cup as they lost in a heroic manner.

Senegal played against Poland in the world cup by reinventing the African imagination which revolves around dance, music and play. These three elements are the core to their style of playing in constraint to the European style where the physicality and intimidation are critical.  The match gave  us a musical treatment where the players played like dancing stars on the play ground. Their attacking style was really just listening to a good classical song in Indian music. Once it started with alap and ended with a high note which Senegal players started in a slow but momentum crept up once the game moved on. In the end they enjoyed in defeating Poland in a style. They danced on the ground to exhibit their joys and happiness to share these feelings with the audience. There were some Senegal supporters who in their traditional dress were beating drums and singing which got merged with the players dance. Wonderful was Japan- Columbia game needed recognisation by us as it was the first Asian team defeated the South American team in this world cup.

Japan has integrated technology of football like their economy has adapted the technology to make it modern and competitive one. Japanese economy is the world's second economy next to American. By building a world class football team they have integrated the western style into their Samurai style. They are slow but a well organised one. There is accuracy in their passes. Their defense is strong enough not to allow an easy goal to be passed the touch line. Their midfield is creative one which is defensive and attacking one. Their philosophy that once your organisational culture is rooted in your social structure it is easy to be competitive. Their joint family system still vibrant where three generations live together under one roof. They have succeeded to abolish the untouchability system which was haunting them like Indians. Modernization of tradition helped in integrating low level to high level technology. An average middle class family has a cycle, motorcycle and car. But they go to the working place by the metro to save time. But they are particular to use cycle on Sunday. They have maintained the tradition of sports culture by integrating modern football system. The way Japanese state encouraged the football player by showing them on the public screen in the centre of city needs to be kept in mind. They started from scratch but after two decades they are able to defeat the South American nation Colombia.

Defeat of Argentina in the world cup by Croatia brought  an end to the era started by Maradona. While the Crotia's goal was crossing the goal keeper of Argentina Maradona sitting in audience covered his face. The second goal came and he started looking pale and third goal made him gloomy. Any end brings tears and only memory remains which players of his age are going to remember not Messi and his friends playing in the present team. Once sun sets there is a glow remains for a short time. People will feel happy seeing the glow for some time. It is nice to welcome a new hero and the no 10 of Croatia who scored a goal from out side the penalty box against Argentina which brought death blow to the match. It was  a wonderful goal. Let us celebrate with the new hero who plays for Real Madrid and conquered the world of football.

 Moscow world cup has thrown many messages which need to be deconstructed. France winning a thrilling victory over Croatia brought their living memory of 1998 to a newer height. The world cup won with Zidane created the French team as a national symbol. The present win consolidates this memory against Le Pen's fascism which was growing. The new slogan 'Liberty, equality and Mbappe' brings fraternity to a sharp focus as Mbappe stands for new energy in building a society with trust among diverse social groups. Croatians after going to world cup final for the first time created its own history on backdrop of xenophobia and corruption. A new society is emerging with love and trust. English team by naming a station in the name of Southgate, their manager of the national team want to keep a memory of joy and happiness after long gap from 1966. Belgium's third position in the world cup creates a hope among young players to sustain the river of talents flowing to new height. Moscow provides a glorious moment for Russian football and Russian managerial skills for making a show on a grand scale. They have come out of their European branding of a weak team. They used to send their aristocracy to get lessons in Paris before the Revolution. Today France has come to learn from them their way of managing the world cup in a creative manner. India has learnt according to the goal keeper of our national team as to plan for the Asian cup as they have inspired by tiny nation like Panama which came to the world cup for the time. Then after some years they may reach there. There is a message for all that sports stand for love and brotherhood not a game of hatred and discrimination.

Jul 27, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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