1) Now Wave Your Flag
Wear your tribal colors. Wave the flag of your Motherland. Bang your drum. Drink Coke—the familiar injunctions: it’s time again for Planet Earth’s biggest communal event. The man behind this year’s anthem is Somalia-born Canadian K’naan (Somali for “traveler”), an odd choice for many critics who feel a South African singer should have had the honors.
K’naan advocates the waving of other flags as well; he has been a passionate defender of Somalian pirates: “Our pirates were the only deterrent we had from an externally imposed environmental disaster. The truth is, if you ask any Somali, if getting rid of the pirates only means the continuous rape of our coast by unmonitored Western vessels, and the producing of a new cancerous generation, we would all fly our pirate flags high… One man’s pirate is another man’s coast guard.”
2) A Man’s Game
If you feel disinclined to don your national colors after watching the K’naan video — hackneyed as it is — you may also want to check your soccer fantasies against this Nike commercial, directed by Guy Ritchie.
Guy Ritchie, “Nike: Take it to the Next Level” (2008)
Young Dutch player scores the winning goal for his local team and is spotted by the Arsenal manager. Suddenly he’s in the big leagues among superstars. He trains very hard. He does well. He gets with various fast women — who are just another shared prize, like a winning goal, in the all-important bonding of teammates. He struggles. He works harder. He gets rich. He drives a fancy new car into the humble neighbourhood of his childhood, distributes gifts. He makes the national team. He scores the winning goal.
There, in a nutshell, the modern folklore of the star soccer player.
3) Drawing Strength
Of course these modern warriors really do inhabit our fantasies. They also divert us from our mundane assignments. Keigo Yasuda’s schoolboys see five of soccer’s greatest in the pages of their notebooks: Cruyff, Zidane, Baggio, Pelé and Maradona.
Keigo Yasuda, “Football Legends” (2010)
4) My Heart and Flesh Sing for Joy to the Living God
Fans are not the only ones to project their hopes and desires onto soccer players. Soon after Zlatan Ibrahimović joined Inter Milan for the 2007/8 season, he came face to face with his the idol of his youth: Ronaldo.
“For me, Ronaldo is the greatest,” Ibra said in 2008. “Over the past ten years, he has been like Pelé. There was nobody like him. No one has influenced both the football and the players who emerged like Ronaldo.”
5) Without Hesitation
Zinedine Zidane makes a fuss about Ronaldo as well. When asked by a CNN reporter to name the best player he had ever played with or against, he said:
“Without hesitation, Ronaldo. C’est le best. We very often see big players step up and perform in big games, and that’s what he did, but I was especially impressed with him during training. He had such an ease with the ball. It was quite disconcerting and it sometimes even irritated people… He’s number one.”
Those two goals by Ronaldo in the 2002 final tied Pelé’s record of 12 World Cup goals. In 2006, he set the all time record with a total of 15 World Cup goals.
6) Pelé vs Maradona
Special players have always made the difference in World Cups. In fact, no team has ever won without repeated magic from a key playmaker. Many greats come to mind—John Motson names a few—but only two persist as the incontrovertible giants.
Who was better? The debate goes on and on.
7) Ronaldo vs Messi
wrzzer, “Cristiano Ronaldo Vs Lionel Messi”
8) Divers, Cheaters, Crybabies
The very essence of soccer is trickery—you appear to do one thing while doing another. Of course, referees can be tricked as well!
WoopaTV, “How To Dive And Cheat” (2009)
9) Aristotle Very Much The Man In Form
If they’re not play acting, soccer players are arguing to no end with the referees. Gentlemen, in the words of Confucius: “Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.”
Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, “International Philosophy” (1982)
10) The 50 Greatest World Cup Goals
Let’s hope for a few Eureka goals in this World Cup. Meantime, here are 10 from the archive.
footballars, “Top 10 Epic Goals in World Cup History” (2014)