Let the party begin!

Forget about that bitter loss in our bid to bring the 2010 Nations Cup finals to this part of the world. Forget about the earth tremors that have shaken our part of the world since the beginning of the year. Forget about the Evans Gwekwerere football success story if you are in Zimbabwe right now. Forget about Hollywood’s glamour couple ‘ Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie and their baby ‘ if you are in Namibia right now. Forget about the controversy surrounding the Hiv status of former president Fredrick Chiluba if you are in Zambia right now. Forget about Jacob Zuma and the shower tonic if you happen to be in South Africa right now. Forget about that sensational victory over Bafana Bafana in the Cosafa Castle Cup if you are in Botswana right now. Forget just about everything that has been on your mind lately ‘ from Big Brother Nigeria to the Oscar-winning hit movie Tsotsi. Well, the Big One ‘ the World Cup finals ‘ explodes into life in Germany on Friday night. Hold your breadth Southern Africa ‘ the biggest football showcase on the globe is coming directly to a television screen near you. For a month ‘ starting on Friday ‘ the whole world will be glued to the World Cup finals. For a month the entire globe will forget briefly about Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden as it turns its focus to the only game whose appeal cuts across the entire globe. “No other sporting event captures the world’s imagination like the Fifa World Cup,” screamed the official Fifaworld.cup.com. website last week. “Ever since the first tentative competition in Uruguay in 1930, Fifa’s flagship has constantly grown in popularity and prestige. “A group of visionary French football administrators, led in the 1920s by the innovative Jules Rimet, are credited with the original idea of bringing the world’s strongest national football teams together to compete for the title of World Champions. “The original gold trophy bore Jules Rimet’s name and was contested three times in the 1930s, before the Second World War put a 12-year stop to the competition. “When it resumed, the Fifa World Cup rapidly advanced to its undisputed status as the greatest single sporting event of the modern world. “Held since 1958 alternately in Europe and the Americas, the World Cup broke new ground with the Executive Committee’s decision in May 1996 to select Korea and Japan as co-hosts for the 2002 edition. “Since 1930, the 16 tournaments have seen only seven different winners. “However, the Fifa World Cup has also been punctuated by dramatic upsets that have helped create footballing history ‘ the United States defeating England in 1950, North Korea’s defeat of Italy in 1966, Cameroon’s emergence in the 1980s and their opening match defeat of the Argentinean cup-holders in 1990. “Today, the Fifa World Cup holds the entire global public under its spell. “An accumulated audience of over 37 billion people watched the France ’98 tournament, including approximately 1.3 billion for the final alone, while over 2.7 million people flocked to watch the 64 matches in the French stadiums. “After all these years and so many changes, however, the main focus of the Fifa World Cup remains the same ‘ the glistening golden trophy, which is the embodiment of every footballer’s ambition.” The tournament in Germany will be the 18th World Cup finals and only the second to be held in that country after the Germans hosted and won the tournament in 1974. And, just like in the other tournaments before this one, the smart money is on the samba boys of Brazil to win again. No football team around the world generates the neutrals’ support as much as Brazil and the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldhino and Kaka will again be expected to power their nation to greatness. Brazil holds the most World Cup championships with five and Italy and Germany are tied with three World Cup titles. Hungary holds the proud record of having scored the highest number of goals in a single World Cup when they fired home 27 in 1954. Sadly they lost in the final of that tournament when they crashed to Germany. It was in the same tournament in 1954 that Austria beat Switzerland 7-5 for the most goals scored by two teams in a World Cup finals match. The Hungarians then came back onto the scene in 1982 to destroy El Salvador 10-1 for the biggest winning margin at a World Cup finals match. The top scorer in World Cup history is Gerard Muller who hammered home 14 goals, the only player to score five goals in one match is Salenko of Russia during the ’94 World Cup finals while Argentine ace Stabile was the first player to score a hattrick in 1930. Hakan Sukur of Turkey scored the fastest goal in World Cup history in when he found the target after 11 seconds four years ago against South Korea. Former German skipper Lothar Matthaus holds the record for the most appearances by a player at the World Cup finals with 25. Brazilian star Pele is the youngest player to score at the World Cup finals when he fired home as a 17-year-old in 1958 as the Samba Boys powered to victory in Sweden. Cameroon legend Roger Milla was the oldest player to play in a World Cup finals at the age of 42 years 39 days. The ’94 World Cup finals in the United States had the highest average attendance with over 68,990 for each match. The World Cup was first televised in 1954 and is now the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games. “The cumulative audience of the World Cup 2002 event ‘ summing over all matches ‘ is estimated to be 28.8 billion,” said Wilkepidia. “About 1.1 billion individuals watched the final match of that tournament. “The draw, which decided the distribution of teams into groups, was watched by 300 million viewers “In all, 207 teams have competed to qualify for the World Cup Finals and 78 nations have qualified at least once. “Of these, only eleven have made it to the final match, and only seven have won. “This exclusivity inspires much enthusiasm and national pride amongst the tournament’s fans.

June 2006
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