A splendid football festival beckons
Lionel Messi

If Mr Jules Rimet — the man most credited for inaugurating the FIFA World Cup in 1930 — could witness the start of the 2022 edition on Sunday in Qatar, he would have a hard time believing his eyes.

Mr Rimet, then president of football's world governing body FIFA, no doubt knew he was on to a good thing when the first World Cup was held in Uruguay 92 years ago. But the growth of football to become by far the world's most popular sport and the extraordinary extravaganza that is the World Cup today would surely leave him staggering.

Perhaps what would be even more jaw-dropping for Mr Rimet is the money involved, mostly from television and related high-technology avenues which were only imagined close to 100 years ago.

Reports suggest that today only the Olympic Games rivals the FIFA World Cup, in terms of popularity and television coverage. At the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, there were an estimated 3.57 billion viewers. More than one billion people are said to have watched the final, which ended in a 4-2 triumph for France over Croatia.

Broadcast rights are said to have earned FIFA at least US$2.8 billion — some sources suggest much more — in 2018. It's expected the world governing body will be pocketing in excess of US$3 billion from such rights at the 2022 edition of the World Cup.

And, despite the constraints and controversies related to such thorny issues as human rights, gender, sexuality and even alcohol — which were always to be expected in a conservative Muslim country — it is anticipated that about 1.2 million people will visit Qatar to support their teams and celebrate football this World Cup.

As always, for Jamaicans and people everywhere, the World Cup over the next four weeks will provide a welcome easing of the stresses and strains of everyday life. Production may fall off a wee bit but, hopefully, so too will crime and anti-social behaviour.

Mostly unconcerned with political and off-field issues in Qatar, Jamaicans — having got over the disappointment of the Reggae Boyz failing to qualify — are now busy considering their choices for this World Cup.

Such is the dizzying array of attacking talent in the Brazil squad, the generations-old love affair with football in that South American country seems sure to continue for many Jamaicans.

But can Mr Lionel Messi, now 34 years old, finally lead star-studded Argentina to his very first senior World Cup title? Can Mr Messi's great contemporary, 37-year-old Mr Cristiano Ronaldo realise his dream with Portugal? What of defending champions France and always-solid Germany? Can England finally repeat its triumph of 1966 — a memory fast fading?

Dare we hope that CONCACAF — represented by USA, Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica — will at least threaten? Can Africa, the sleeping giants of global football, set this tournament alight?

Can a team outside of Europe and South America finally claim the World Cup?

As is always the case with the World Cup, Jamaican football lovers, and even those with only a 'sometimish' appreciation for the great game, wait with rising excitement and bated breath.

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