FIFA World Cup: Russia Thump Saudi Arabia 5-0 In Tournament Openerby Opinion Express June 16, 2018 0 comments
Russian footballer Denis Cheryshev scored a bracket in the FIFA World Cup 2018 tournament in style, beating Saudi Arabia 5-0.
Verily, there is a reason why underdogs in the sporting world are thus named. In the 21st century, which has mainstreamed what Prince Charles rightly termed a culture of blame, it is everybody’s else’s fault but one’s own when you don’t perform. Unfortunately, this a culture that now seems to have also got firmly ensconced in the world of sport and complicated by the power play at work. The 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia by Russia in the World Cup opener on Thursday and the embarrassing, abject surrender by the Afghanistan cricket team, playing its first five-day Test against India in Bangalore which ended in two days flat on Friday are perfect examples of how competitiveness is being given short shrift in world sport.
Take the FIFA World Cup first. Coming after a string of bribery and corruption scandals that have dogged the world football body over the past decade which included allegations of ‘fixing’ when footballing non-entity Qatar was selected as the venue of the 2022 edition of the quadrennial event, there has also been persistent criticism of its decision to increase the number of teams participating over the years and to up the quota for teams from outside the traditional powerhouse continents of Europe and South America. The argument proffered, that of popularizing the game, only stands when the performances of those who have been given a helping hand, as it were, bear scrutiny. While some African nations have grabbed the opportunities provided, West Asian nations have been consistently sub-par. It is not the score-line of Thursday’s opener which was the embarrassment; all teams can have an off day, even the best of them as was seen in the 2014 semi-final when mighty Brazil were soundly thrashed 7-1 in front of their home crowd by a rampant Germany. No, the issue is that even the battle between the two lowest ranked teams in the current edition of the World Cup showed such a massive difference in quality that Saudi Arabia making it to the finals from the region as consistently as it has over the past two decades is indefensible; a further play-off is the need of the hour. But then many countries in the region have a lot of money which they are willing to spend so our guess football will continue to suffer from a quality deficit on the world stage. As for cricket minnows Afghanistan, one can have all the sympathy in the world for this brave band of cricketers having overcome myriad obstacles in their war-ravaged country to display their cricketing wares at the highest level, but they are just not ready yet. The BCCI wasinstrumental in getting Afghanistan in and had earlier successfully pushed Bangladesh into the Test arena. The ICC has, of course, also granted Ireland Test status. These moves unfortunately are more a reflection of the desire to control the votes of ICC member-countries and thereby the game rather than a recognition of the quality of the two teams.
In all of this, the real loser will be the sports fan who expects a pyramidical structure in sport in which only the best makeit to the top.
Courtesy: The Pioneer