The year was 1982 and among my earliest memories in life. My twin brother and I struggling for space on our father’s lap as he attempted to balance the two of us while he watched the Brazilian squad of that year play possibly some the finest football the world had ever seen. That team consisted of the great Socrates, Zico, and Juninho. Players that mesmerized opponents with the Samba style Jorgo Bonito. Brazil was knocked out that year by a well-disciplined Italian team that would eventually go and win the World Cup, but what they did for me as a toddler was instantly convert me to a worshipper of the sport.
Subsequent tournaments such as Mexico ’86, Italia ’90, USA ’94, France ’98, South Korea/Japan ‘02 brought out the best players the world ever saw. What we also began to see as the years stacked on were the overt corporate commercialization of the sport and the introduction of prima donna global stars that had bigger personalities than the actual tournament itself. By Germany ’06 and South Africa ’10, players were no longer going to the World Cup for the same reasons that generations did before them. It became one big party, an opportunity to showcase to the world pure individualism. The core elements of the game were lacking, and it was starting to turn into pure entertainment. Yes, there was good football, I cannot lie (The ’06 final between France and Italy was quite epic), but something was missing. I did not feel the uncanny attachments and sheer euphoria I used to experience from days gone by.
Fast forward to Brazil 2014 where the beautiful game returns to the spiritual home of football. The games are being hosted in a country that produced the one and only Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, the Royal Prince of this Sport, a record holding 5-time champions, and a team that combined the musical sensation Samba into the very fabric of their playing style.
We are only in the group stages, and we have already witnessed some of the finest football, ecstasy, and euphoria that this tournament has produced in the last 24 years. I honestly do not know if the game being played in Brazil is the reason for what we are witnessing or if players’ donning the colors of their national team is bringing the sexy back.
So far, we have seen absolutely sensational goals and goal celebrations. Let me quickly point out the Colombians. Every time they score, I honestly do not know what to expect, but their rhythmic Latin American inspired dance moves invigorate my soul each and every time. We are watching the Dutch National Team; La Orange returning to their Johann Cruyff philosophy of Total football by being the team of the tournament so far with comprehensive victories against current holders and two-time Euro champions Spain and a dogged Australian side. The German national team bringing their machinery of efficiency by blowing out a star studded Cristiano Ronaldo led Portuguese team. Then of course, we saw the USA national team beating the Black Stars of Africa Ghana in the game of the tournament so far. The US coming into their own despite heavy hating from individuals like myself, showing that yes indeed they belong here. We saw Lionel Messi finally walking into his own destiny and leading the Argentinian national team to victory. England being England as usual by underachieving each and every tournament, and then there was Mexico holding down the indefectible Brazilian, led by Neymar da Silva Santos in an Iron Clad match where their Goalie Ochoa becomes a cult legend.
My World Cup is back, because the Raw Emotions are back. We are seeing fans in the stadium weeping when their National Anthem is played. We have superstar players literally going bananas when they score goals and are instantly besotted by the enormity of the situation that they find themselves in. We are witnessing the relatively unknowns becoming Gods overnight. We are watching the Beautiful Game!
YES, YES, YES, MY WORLD CUP IS BACK!!!!!
Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor. Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective. He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.