Friday 28 October 2016

World Cup forever in Brazil . . . and Italy

Declan Lynch is on the same side as Eamon 
Dunphy - one country should host the World Cup. But which one?

Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

All World Cups should be held in Brazil. People say this in the enthusiasm of the moment, carried away by the greatness of this particular tournament, but not really believing that such a thing should actually happen. Deep down they are still of the view that it must be moved from continent to continent, that the present system is probably the best.

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So when Eamon Dunphy suggested that all World Cups should in future be held in the same country, it seemed to some like a top-of-the-head comment on a tangential matter that did not merit any detailed discussion by the RTE panel, because, for a start, it is
never going to happen. So on a busy night, they moved on.

Yet there were a few of us who did not dismiss it as an obviously crazy and unworkable idea. I, for one, had a shock of recognition when I heard him mention it, because of late, my own thinking on this matter had also been moving in that direction.

My friend and colleague Dion Fanning has also been doing some work in this area, and speaking from his Rio de Janeiro base last week, he declared without hesitation that the World Cup should always be held in Brazil.

He stated that, among other things: "Brazil gives Europeans football at 11pm, the most civilising advance since the printing press."

My own stance on the matter is similar in principle, though I would be with Eamon Dunphy in suggesting that the tournament should always be held in the same country in Europe.

I have indeed identified that country - I would have every World Cup from now on in Italy, as it happens. This may be partly influenced by a sentimental attachment to Italia '90, but Italy, by every other criterion, is still an extraordinarily fine place for a football tournament.

Radical and even ridiculous though these propositions may seem, it must be remembered that all men of vision have had their original ideas dismissed, even mocked. And then slowly, grudgingly, their vision is seen to be the sanest.

In the limited time available to him, one of the main arguments made by Dunphy was that the "one-nation" system would blow away the phenomenal amounts of money associated with the current process, this most obscene auction in which only the most dastardly of potentates can prevail.

You may dismiss the vision, but bear in mind that in doing so, you are also implicitly defending the
current system that has worked so well, for so long, for every international sleazeball who fancies it.

He also mentioned the practice in other sports, such as golf or tennis, which have the Masters or Wimbledon at the same venue every year - and he might have mentioned Cheltenham too.

Somehow, you don't hear a lot of people saying that the Cheltenham Festival is fine, but would it not be much more fun and much fairer all round to have it in Haydock Park now and again, or even to bring it to Russia, or maybe to Qatar?

The point here, is that the quality of the event is of the essence, that if a certain location works supremely well, in an unstable universe, on balance, you're probably better off staying there. The Olympics, for example, should always be held in London.

But not even the
Olympics, for all the
unpleasantness associated with it, has become so diseased in its administration that it would conceive of bringing its great circus to a place such as Qatar.

Russia in 2018, for that matter, is not the brightest of prospects, if only because any tournament rented out to Vladimir Putin will not be run entirely with the best
interests of the game in mind.

Indeed, it is rarely acknowledged just how often a World Cup has failed, or has perhaps been less
enthralling than it should have been, because it was held in the wrong place.

Japan/Korea wasn't the greatest, South Africa didn't really cut it, America didn't quite work.

The current tournament has captured the American imagination in a way that the one held in the USA never did, partly because Brazil - like England, like Mexico, like Germany, like Argentina, like Spain, like Italy - is a country full of football men and women, something which should be a minimum requirement for any host nation.

A deeply embedded football culture is not just a convenience in terms of World Cup infrastructure, it is a thing that seems to rise from the very soul of the land, it is a form of magic.

You can have Brazil
playing Italy in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 1994, and you can call it the
World Cup Final, but it can never be as beautiful as a final in one of football's
holy places, such as the Maracana.

You can't mess with this thing, hawking it around. So I would slightly favour Italy as the permanent host country but I would, of course, take Brazil.

Perhaps the ideal solution would be to alternate between the two.

Even in an unstable universe this new arrangement would have certain guarantees - you could be sure of the atmosphere, the intensity that a World Cup needs, and you'd also have a lot of men in blazers who are very sad because no one needs to "entertain" them anymore.

That in itself is beautiful. 

Sunday Independent

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