Monday, 28 November, 2022

FIFA World Cup takes mankind to an exciting period

Says Imrul Hassan in an exclusive interview

The days of football again came back after four years. It is a lovely game. In every sphere of life, football’s position is strong enough. Football lovers will remain mesmerized for over a month. As per will, it will play with the hearts of innumerable people. No machine has yet been innovated by which the enthusiasm over football can be measured.

In the contemporary world, around 450 crore of people eagerly wait for four years to enjoy the festivity of joy and excitement. So, football is far ahead of the Olympic Games and all other team sports. Each World Cup brings with it new stars, new victory, new hope-despair, new innovation and new topic of discussion. Thirty-four thousand spectators will enjoy the game from eight stadiums in Qatar. Rest others of the world will witness the game on TV. In the greatest football festivity, football lovers divide themselves into Europe and Latin camps while supporting the teams. The aim of the game is to draw nearer lakhs of people to unite them and the entire world.

The 22nd World Cup football tournament is being held in Qatar. In the continent of Asia, this has been organised for the second time. And, it is the first time in the Middle East of Asia. This is for the last time in the World Cup, 32 countries dividing into eight groups will be engaged in the football battle. From the World Cup of 2026, 48 countries will play the game. This will increase the chance of playing in the final round. The global tournament will kick off on November 20 through the match between host Qatar and Ecuador and will conclude on December 20. Now, a discussion revolves from the Middle East of Asia whether the World Cup will go to Europe or a Latin country? Earlier, in 2002, Brazil won the trophy for the fifth time from the World Cup held in Korea-Japan of Asia. It is eight years after winning the World Cup in the US in 1994. Another memorable achievement of Brazil is that it is the first team to win the trophy from another continent (Sweden) in 1958. Meanwhile, in 2014, Germany won the trophy from Latin America (Brazil) by defeating Argentina, another Latin American country, by 1-0 goal. Again, the same Germany could not cross the fence of the first round in the next World Cup (2018) held in Russia. After 20 years, France became champions for the second time as a full-fledged team from Russia. It is worth noticeable that no other country, but Brazil posed for a group photograph twice winning the trophy in 1958 and 1962 in the history of 14 World Cup tournaments. In the global tournament, fair play will not suffice; rather the dream will not be fulfilled until and unless luck favours the team.

On the list of World Cup victories, Europe got prominence. In the last 21 World Cup tournaments, European countries came out victorious while Latin American countries fetched it for 19 times.

In the clubs of the European countries, football is patronized like that of a religion. There exists professional management. Latin America, Africa and the continent of Asia lag behind in this regard. After 2002, Europe exclusively dominated in the arena. In Qatar, it is yet to be seen how will a new story be written?

During 92 years’ history of the greatest football extravaganza, 79 countries played in the final round since 1930 till prior to Qatar World Cup. If host Qatar takes to the field then the number will be 80. There are only eight countries who are on the list of the World Cup champions. The countries are Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina, France and Spain.  Of them, Brazil lifted the trophy for five times. A large number of football Pundits are of the opinion that there is a heavy possibility of winning the cup among the old champions. This time also, four-time champions, two-time runners-up and one-time third place holder Italy failed to qualify in the World Cup. It is a glaring example of how strong is the qualifying round among the European countries. Because of absence of Italy, the charm of the World Cup will fade to some extent. This time, the Netherlands have qualified for the World Cup.  The Netherlands is Cruyff’s team. It is not proper to mention only the name of Cruyff. Football artistes like Ruud Gullit, Ronald, Koeman and Marco van Basten played in Dutch national team. In World Cup, the Netherlands team became runners-up thrice and secured third and fourth place once. Despite being a talented team, Oranje was deprived of the World Cup trophy in 1974, 1978 and 2010. The performance of the Dutch team is yet to be seen this time.

Keeping the upcoming World Cup in the forefront, former Vice-President of AIPS Asia Ekramuzzaman, also a columnist and analyst, closely talked to football lover and Bashundhara Group Deputy Managing Director Imrul Hassan, also Bashundhara Kings club President and Bangladesh Football Federation Vice-President as well as a tested football organizer. Excerpts from the Interview are given below:

Question: World Cup again knocks at the door after four years. How do you evaluate it?

Answer: Only a few days are left to reach football in every home. The Middle East of Asia is hosting the World Cup for the first time in its history. In management and other spheres, Qatar World Cup is a bit different than the past 21 editions. A small country has taken a major positive challenge. Since inception, incumbent FIFA Board stood beside Qatar and it will remain so in the future. Defeating the US, Qatar won the World Cup bid to become a host country. It is not an ordinary affair.

Throughout the world, media has been engaged in warming the atmosphere. The mercury of discussion and analysis has been rising gradually. The madness of football will overwhelm us for a month. World Cup Football is not only a contest of games—it is a worldwide colourful festivity. The entire world will eagerly witness the World Cup Football for a month. Each and every World Cup takes entire mankind towards an exciting period. No part of ten horizons can stay away from its ardent appeal. All get involved in it directly or indirectly. World Cup Football creates a link with the entire world. Football crazy Bangladesh is not an exception. I am observing a festive mood. Team-supporting flags are flying in every nook and corner of the country including the capital. Flying this flag is a manifestation of love for football, not any more. Pictures of favourite stars are visible in festoons of the walls. Preparations are afoot as to how to enjoy the game. I’ve heard that in many places the game will be displayed in ‘joint screens.’ Although a decision is yet to be taken in this regard, but surely Bashundhara Kings, the club of Bashundhara Group, will not lag behind. Pictures of Neymar, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are on hot sale.

Question: Football is termed as the king of games. What’s your personal evaluation?

Answer: Football is indeed the king of games and sports. In modern world there is no second innocent recreation like football which is an enjoyable gift. In football there is immense recreation, intense competition and collaboration. Football always signs the song of equality, fraternity and brotherhood. Football always takes side of masses and guards mass interest. In Qatar, 32 countries will take part, but the entire world will get involved with it. Among the representatives of all continents, white and black, wealthy and comparatively less wealthy and players of different religion and races will take part. Everyone is equal in the stage of football. The aim and objective of football sponsors are single and inseparable.

Question: This time, football will step into its 92 years. How do you view this?

Answer: The long history and tradition of football is full of colour and diversity. There is no similarity of one World Cup with another. Upsetting, surprising and unexpected events have made the World Cup attractive and lovely. Here, consequences are unpredictable. That is the reason of so much concern, unrest and madness all over. Sometimes, we observe loneliness of intelligent people, the creators of football. They get entangled with the net created by them. There is nothing to do. It is the last word of human life.

Question: International football is gradually changing and contest is on the rise. How do you evaluate it?

Answer: A radical change has taken place in global football. Once it was told that football is the skills of Latin Americans and power of Europe. We the Bengalees used to tell the football of poetry and essay. Presently, lots of Latin American footballers regularly play in League tournaments for different clubs of Europe. They spend most of the time of the year there. So, reasonably, Europe has become a meeting spot of all types of football. Players of a country are playing in other country’s League tournaments. The same thing is applicable to coaches. Globalisation has changed the face of football. Now, there is no existence of Latin American or European style of football. Solo patronization is absent. Presently, aggressive team games are desirable. Of course, securing the defence! Football has entered into the laboratory. In football, mathematics and science get preference.

Question: In international football, popularity and contest are on the rise. What’s your observation?

Answer: The reason of growing popularity of football all over the world is that the difference of a team with another one is gradually diminishing. You may observe this in Qatar World Cup. Ahead of the World Cup, participating teams have submitted the lists of injured players. Because of this reason, football stars of a few countries will no more be able to come to the World Cup ground. As per instruction of FIFA, the clubs have earmarked the players for playing in their national teams merely 10 days ahead of it. The players are tired and exhausted. In certain Leagues, a player has to play for two to three matches in a week. There is no alternative, but to play for the clubs. As to why, the games of World Cup first rounds become less contestant. Gradually, professional players come to the aid. And, to replace the injured ones, players remain in the squad. Thinking many points, squads are announced.

To tell about skill and tactics, I like to mention that each and every World Cup pushes the game to new heights. Time has changed. Now, the footballers and coaches can observe, understand and analyze everything sitting in the room. Presently, the magic of major players is not unknown to anybody. Formats, attacks and the way of quick tackling of the defence of a team are also not unknown. The coaches have no alternative, but to make the players play following the single, double, triple plans.

Question: In World Cup, there is dominance of Europe—what’s your statement?

Answer: Europe dominates utilizing their worthiness and capability. They possess tremendous self-confidence, mental strength and lust for victory. They are aware about the way to play the game. Moreover, their obligation and accountability are much more. In Qatar World Cup, we are doubtful that their dominance will come down. Of course, in football, there is surprise! In Europe, football is practiced like that of a religion. In this sphere, Latin America, Africa and Asia lag behind in many ways. If anything unpleasant occurs then the two Latin American countries can do that.  Till now, Africa could reach up to quarter finals. In 1986, Morocco reached the final round as the first country of Africa. In 2002, South Asia has played the semi-final match. This time, in Qatar World Cup, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the host country will play. Playing in own continent, a country should reach the knock-out round. It is invaluable to upset any country of Europe or Latin America. Because of multifarious reasons, football lags behind in Asia. Physical structure, strength and lack of vitality are behind the dismal situation. However, the physical structure of the players of central Asia is suitable for football. There is no substitute to professional football management.

Question: What is the reason of uproar over Brazil and Argentina in Bangladesh?

Answer: It is true that the culture of Bangladesh football is Brazil and Argentina centric. The reason behind this is lengthy enough. In brief, I like to mention about identified time, acquaintance, praise for fair play, closeness of victory and passion for football.  Of course, there are various explanations for madness centring the two countries. While supporting a team, the area is also important. For the past few years, adolescents and youths are witnessing the eye-catching fresh League tournaments of Europe. Consequently, they turned staunch supporters of the European countries. For people aged 50 or above, the appeal of Brazil and Argentina is a bit different. I myself have played football. I’ve seen football closely. Football is my life. In the context of my age, acquaintance and experience, my first choice is Brazil. The second choice is Argentina. You can tell it 51 and 49 respectively. In ’78, World Cup matches were shown through television (TV), which I’ve seen. But I got amusement by witnessing the global tournament since ’82. The memory of 1986 World Cup is vivid in my memory. I supported Brazil, but I got displeasure and frustration from Brazil time and again. Actually, life cannot always be decorated as per anyone’s desire.

Question: Will you tell about your own conviction about Qatar World Cup? Will you go to witness the game?

Answer: It is my strong belief that France and Denmark will play the final match. The horse of my gamble is Denmark. I’ll remain firm in my conviction till the end. I had an opportunity of witnessing a game in South Africa World Cup. I couldn’t go to Brazil. In Russia World Cup, I’ve seen two matches along with my family. This time, I’ve taken preparation to witness three matches of the first round taking all members of the family. Brazil-Surbia, Denmark-France and Argentina-Mexico. If Brazil and Argentina reach the second round then again I’ll go to witness the match. In first, there exist all countries. I get a chance to get acquainted with people of different countries. I can witness the culture and tradition of various countries.

An appeal to football lovers! Let us enjoy the World Cup football with pleasure taking family and community members with us. At the cost of football, let tolerance, patience and human qualities prevail in family and social life for even a few days. Let everybody take the smell of World Cup. Football is part of life.

Thanks for sparing times.

Thanks to you too.


Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman