Opinion: It′s time for the beautiful game to draw us back in | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 14.06.2018
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Opinion: It's time for the beautiful game to draw us back in

A lot of people seem to be having trouble getting enthused about this World Cup. But, when the matches actually begin, the beautiful game is bound to draw us back in, just as it always has, writes DW's Chuck Penfold.

It's remarkable how blasé people in Germany, the home of the defending World Cup champions, have seemingly been in the days and hours leading up to the 2018 tournament in Russia.

"Are you looking forward to it?" one coworker asked another the other day.

"Not really," the other replied without giving the matter a second thought. And without taking a representative survey, that's been the general mood observed in the workplace and out on the streets in recent days.

Another typical response to the above question is something like: "I'm sure I'll get into it once the tournament actually gets going."

So what's the problem? Why do so many people seem to be less than enthused just hours before the opening game and days before Joachim Löw's men launch their title defense against Mexico?

There's no easy answer, but there are plenty of factors that haven't helped stir the emotions in a positive way.

Penfold Charles Kommentarbild App

DW Sports editor Chuck Penfold

Unpopular governing body

It starts with the people who decided to give the tournament to Russia, football's world governing body, FIFA. After all the negative headlines, particularly related to the corruption scandal that led to the resignation of its longtime president, Sepp Blatter in 2015, does anybody really actually like FIFA anymore?

Sure, FIFA may be trying to mend its ways, and in terms of transparency, Wednesday's vote on which country should host the 2026 World Cup looked like a step in the right direction, but changing FIFA's image will take time.

There have long been questions about how FIFA's then Executive Committee was persuaded almost seven and a half years ago to award the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively. Both decisions have been widely criticized in the West in particular – and not without reason.

Ongoing tensions with Russia

In fact, the criticism of Russia has only grown louder, largely due to its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. Then there is the growing list of journalists in the country who have been killed after reporting critically about the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He, of course, regrets this sort of thing and denies any involvement or responsibility on the part of the Russian state, but for some reason, few in the West seem to be buying it.

Read more: World Cup 2018: Russia hoping to prove pessimists wrong

Doping allegations

Then there is the whole scandal surrounding evidence of state-sponsored doping at the highest levels of Russian sports contained in the 2016 WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)-commissioned McLaren Report. And the German journalist responsible for revealing the allegations has decided against traveling to Russia for the World Cup, after he was advised by German authorities, that he might not be save there. Sure, Russia has denied the doping allegations, and FIFA has assured us that there will be robust anti-doping measures at the World Cup, but somehow, it's hard not to be skeptical.

And if all that weren't enough, there are well-documented and fears ahead of this tournament about hooligans, racism and homophobia.

Still the beautiful game           

Once the games do start, all of this could largely be forgotten — at least for isolated periods of 90 (plus) minutes at a time.  All it will take will be an unforgettable great goal, a minnow upsetting one of the favorites in the group stage or an epic battle between two of the top teams, like say Spain and Portugal, and the all of the enthusiasm will be there just like before.

There are so many things that seem to be wrong with football in general these days, mostly having to do with how much of a business it has become. But somehow, the beautiful game itself is simply so enthralling, maybe even addictive for a lot of us, that it just keeps drawing us back in. And there is no reason that this shouldn't be the case at Russia 2018.

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