Like many millions of people around the world, much of my recent attention span has been given over to watching football – the glorious game. The FIFA World Cup (which I note is a trademark) has again transfixed the world and not for all the expected reasons either. Star power has distinctly fallen short, one came to expect the unexpected and sometimes the scripts even when you might have expected something have been thrown out the window.
There is little point treading on old ground and looking at what happened to England, Italy or France. That has been gone into at the highest levels of the game. Suffice to say that there are no quick fixes and change for change’s sake might make the current problems even worse. For the good of the sport, strong nations make for strong competition and depth of talent is what will deliver results. What is set in motion today might well take five, ten or fifteen years to deliver but you have to start somewhere. New Zealanders know this fact very well – we are to blame (if that is the right word) for the creation of the Australian Institute of Sport, a remarkable institution which has made Australia a worthy powerhouse at many sports and international competitions.
But there has been a feel-good feeling to this tournament regardless. Some of the ‘lesser’ teams have performed above expectations – such as Japan, Paraguay and Uruguay. Ghana must capitalise on the relative success of their players and hopefully a player like Gyan will be spurred on like many of the other great players of the past to completing unfinished business in Brazil in 2014. New Zealand didn’t get through to the knockout stages, sure, but reinvigorated an interest in football for the first time in 28 years – no mean feat in country which has a dedicated rugby channel. And these things have been a welcome distraction in a year which has been turbulent to say the least.
Now, it’s at the business end of the tournament. Any of these four remaining teams have the potential to win it. Who am I backing ? I shan’t say for fear of jinxing it. But I will be curious to see which team an octopus named Paul is predicting to win in one of the semi-finals at least.