I have asked for vacations not to travel and, nevertheless, I have felt the same happiness of taking a plane when filling my refrigerator with beers to do nothing but watch games, in boxers, with a jar and junk food in hand. I have been very happy because the World Cups give me an adolescent, easy, concrete happiness, and because every four years, especially after thirty, it is necessary to forget about being an adult for a month.
But Qatar doesn’t excite me. Or not so much. If I had the money to go, I wouldn’t go. And this disenchantment is not due to the fact that if Mexico goes to the fifth game it will be due to an undeserved miracle. Or because if Messi or Cristiano win the World Cup it will be at the wrong time and anticlimactic. Sometimes I feel that maybe ethics overwhelms me and that I’m getting old. That I should not feel emotion because this World Cup will be in a country that cares about soccer as much as Catholicism, that it will only be there because sheikhs, who know nothing about soccer, bought the cup with petrodollars to build stadiums —which have cost the lives of 6,500 immigrant workers—only to profit even more from a sports party in which love in the streets will be a sin and drinking beer on the sidewalks will be punished.
It will be a rare World Cup. And yet, it is likely that when the ball rolls I will swallow my words, that I will wake up watching even Ghana against South Korea. Let the well-founded arguments of the intellectuals bother me, who will take advantage of the World Cup to discredit soccer for being the people’s circus again. And once again I will wonder how it is possible that they fail to recognize that what is capable of making millions of people happy or sad —at the same time— cannot be something trivial.
The World Cup turns football into a kind of quantum phenomenon. I think, for example, when Roberto Baggio missed the penalty in the final of USA 94: millions of Italians suffered sadness when the ball went over the crossbar; while, simultaneously, millions of other Brazilians exploded with joy. Few events have this power, an earthquake, the celebration of the New Year.
What other sport elicits that level of instant mass reaction? And therein lies the sad paradox of this World Cup. In the fact that while everyone will have their emotions connected to the host country, the hosts will be foreigners from the world of soccer, disintegrated from the feelings of millions around the planet. It is not a coincidence that this World Cup takes place in the middle of the desert.
About the author: A journalist by training, Salvador has dedicated many years of his professional career to one of his great passions, cinema. The other is on the soccer fields, where he occasionally plays, but which he always sees as a metaphor for human nature.