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Editorial of the week

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
Courtesy: The Sangai Express 25th May, 2002

From 1930 in Uruguay to 2002 in Japan and South Korea the journey has been long and eventful for the biggest sporting extravaganza, known the world over as the World Cup. With 32 teams or rather country, set to fight it out for the prestigious World Cup spread across 20 stadiums in Japan and South Korea, the World Cup has surely come a long way from the 13 teams which participated in the first World Cup hosted by Uruguay in 1930. the ‘Beautiful Game’ as the ‘Black Pearl,’ Pele, christened the game of football, the World Cup has seen its moments of glory and disappointment. If Maradona mesmerized the world with his wizardry in the 1986 World Cup along with the stunning solo effort that sealed the fate of England in the quarter final match, Maradona also shocked the world when he was unceremoniously banned from the 1994 World Cup at USA after testing positive for a banned substance. And of course who can ever forget the ‘Hand of God’ goal and the utter look of disbelief on the face of England custodian Peter Shilton when the goal was allowed by the referee in 1986 World Cup. Maradona was the man who inspired the 80’s generation and particularly the people of Manipur for thankfully in 1986 TV had entered the living rooms of the people here. And of course the penalty missed by the flamboyant, pony tailed Roberto Baggio in the final against Brazil in USA, 1994 that sealed the fate of Italy is also still fresh in the mind of the people. 1950 World Cup will be remembered for the emergence of the raw 17-year-old rookie Pele who took the footballing world by storm and remains to this day the most well known face of football.

What is it about that catches the imagination of people across the globe? Why is a country like India which has never qualified for the World Cup stage but nevertheless takes a keen interest in this game? For one football is not an ‘elitist’ sports like say, golf, tennis, or even cricket. It can be played from the most uptodate, state of art stadium like the ones constructed at Japan and South Korea to the backyard of any slum areas of Rio de Janeiro to the abandoned streets of Kolkata. The 2002 World Cup also has a number of firsts of its credit. For the first time the World Cup has come to Asia and for the first time it will be played across two countries, with South Korea hosting the opening game at Seoul on May 31 and Japan taking the honor of staging the finale At Yokohoma on June 30. a number of countries will also be debuting at the World Cup with the notable ones being China, South Africa, Ecuador and Slovenia. Another interest aside that has been catching the attention of the media the world over is the consumption of dog meat ion South Korea. Already restaurants selling dog meat in this tiny island nation are gearing hard sell their ‘local delicacy’ to the world with dog soup, dog burgers and even cosmetics extracted from dog fats being highlighted to draw the attention of foreigners. With corporate bodies taking increasing interest in the World Cup, South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung is even hoping that the event will generate 9 billion dollars and create 350,000 jobs while Japan set its eyes on generating 25 billion dollars. Clearly the World Cup is today not only confined to the playing field but has larger ramifications on the economic front too.


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