Football has prevailed as a sport to neutralize political tensions on various fronts by playing in the field against each other. Let us explore how the World Cup bid, the telecast rights of BeIN Sports and the Neymar transfer may just have asserted Qatar’s status as an Arab superpower at the backdrop of an unprecedented political embargo in the region. Shashank Bhandari at Goalden Times tries to emphasize the political significance of this transfer.
Sports has historically proven to be a great emulsifier to stabilize political instabilities. When cities, states or countries vent out their emotions in the stadium, it further cements the significance and value of sports for the purpose of strategy and diplomacy in the world affairs. This will perhaps be for the first time where the power of sports will seep through political standoff without any rival countries, states or clubs playing against each other. This tiff shall be won through earning the right of hosting a World Cup,acquiring telecasting rights of top football leagues in the world, player transfers and a region’s aspiration to be known for more than oil and war.
An unprecedented deadlock since the last two months has finally seen a breakthrough in the tensions. Qatar has successfully broken the stalemate because of its rich economics backed by some smart conventionally understood “soft” power credentials. It has of course recently billed Qatar a minimum of £198 million in the process. Despite all the criticism and anxiety that the move of the Qatari owned club has stormed the teacup of European football, it is in fact a small price to pay for the city-state to uphold its position as a major stakeholder in the Arab world. It would of course be naïve to ignore or deny the contribution of Al-Sabah, Rex Tillerson, Nawaz Sharif (while he was in power) and the rest of the world who were willing to mediate and negotiate the normality in the situation. One cannot deny various other significant and perhaps bigger logistical issues that is hurting all the stakeholders in this face-off. But it would certainly be negligent to overlook how the role of football as a “soft” power for the purpose of any meaningful resolution has evolved a nation’s status to altogether a new level in the current scenario.
BeIN Sports is the sole broadcaster of all the exciting football action in the Middle East and North Africa. They own the telecasting rights of the English Premier League (which has Abu Dhabi owned club Manchester City), Spanish La Liga (which has Barcelona and Real Madrid), Ligue 1 (which has Neymar in Paris Saint-Germain), German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and the mother of all the footballing action, UEFA Champions League. BeIN Sports was one of the many Qatari entities to face the flak of the embargo as it was immediately withdrawn from the Saudi and Emirati broadcast. There was also total ban of products bearing anything Qatar on them like the football jerseys of Barcelona as they wore Qatar Airways as their sponsors. There was also speculation of PSG and Emirates parting ways as an exertion of further pressure in the Gulf embargo.
One would wonder the timing of such sanctions. Interestingly, the sanctions came right after the UEFA Champions League finals i.e. June 3, 2017. A very convenient timing for the blockade one would think. Of course the timing had more correlation with the OIC and Trump visit, but it does tickle your thoughts towards this. If that thought is not discarded for being over stretched then it could also be presumed that Saudi and allies were expecting Qatar to concede in the given timeline of perhaps a couple of months, i.e. before the new football season starts. The economic and strategic might of Qatar held up its ground for as long as it took the Saudi and allies to retreat and reconsider the stalemate on the chess board. Nobody was taking the initiative to break the ice in this situation. In the meantime the Community Shields and Super Cups kick-started this year’s season. Meanwhile, BeIN Sports also returned to business in the UAE.
While the blockade was to frustrate the economic status of Qatar, it turned around by the succeeding in the most expensive bid that the football world had ever seen (£198 million). The Neymar deal also strengthened PSG and its owner’s case with the Arab fans. One cannot dispute the popularity and enigma that Neymar creates across the world, without any discrimination. It is a known fact that having Neymar on the back of your jersey would increase your sales manifold. So much so the recent confirmation from Emirates spokesperson to “fulfil” its contract of the jersey sponsorship after the Neymar deal can be seen as lowering the guards for truce. This only comes as a turnaround of the speculation of Emirates’ dissociation with PSG for furthering the cause of the blockade, else there was no such need of a press event to what one may consider status quo. Love and fan-following of Neymar transcends genders, colour, language, and specifically the borders in this case. These events are a strong enough indication towards a hopeful resolution of the current situation in the Gulf region.
Football is staple to the Arab way of life. They take their football quite seriously. Qatar through its football investment has made itself part of every Arab household. No matter how much political embargo any dictator wishes to pursue, for the sake of their subjects they will have to accede to the bare minimum Qatar in their lives. When the world was witnessing Arab spring, these prominent Middle Eastern kingdoms survived the brunt because somewhere there was a connection with their masses. The subjects have looked up to their Emirs and they have in turn always accounted for their nationals. This kindness is not just one way traffic descending from the king to his subjects but the other way around too. It is about time for the Kingdoms against Qatar to accept that if football is integral to their sustenance as Arabs, so is Qatar from now on. Therefore, the strategic investments in a sport dear to the region has elevated Qatar as a player of substance in the Gulf region.
When Qatar won the bid for the World Cup 2022, it was harbouring the aspirations of the whole region. Every Arab was as happy as any Qatari because finally someone had successfully put their footballing aspirations on the world map. It was also celebrated by the Arab community for attempting to shift the global perception of the area and the community as being war mongering. One needs to wait and watch whether the Arabs persuade the Saudi-led allies in softening their stand or will it see a scathing backlash from these forces. Looking at the recent trend of the allies, the occurence of the former event seems more plausible at this point in time. The Arabic viewership’s craze and love of football and Neymar might have ignited the engine for resolution, which was making no headway for all this while. Truth be told, Neymar and BeIN Sports have broken the ice which was taking its time to melt.
Why Neymar to Paris is bigger than 200 million bargain?
The Neymar transfer may look like a huge money affair which would change the current European transfer market paradigm, but there are many different dynamics involved. This transfer can have colossal impact on three different nations and change the course of the game in coming years. Tamas Sinha at Goalden Times tries to measure the impacts beyond money.
A French Revolution
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived at Parc des Princes in 2012, French domestic league had five different winners in last five seasons. New owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi brought Carlo Ancelotti in the mid-season of 2011, and the results were already visible. Although a miraculous run by Montpellier saw them clinch their maiden title ahead of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), they were already the strongest contenders for the throne next year. PSG was never shy of buying world-beaters with ridiculous amount of money. Along with the Swedish superstar, came Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Gregory van der Wiel. The impact of the foreign players was imminent, but the intention was very clear from the Qatari owners, and it was not only French dominance. With one of the strongest line up in Europe, they won four back–to-back league titles and made it look so easy. French league was past its glory days, the challenges were not up to the level. It’s a fact that even a 34-year-old Zlatan scored 38 league goals in his last season alone. PSG were always up for the next challenge which was conquering Europe and subsequently, the world. Their performance in the Champions League had tremendous improvement in last few years and undoubtedly escalated them to one of the dark horses to lift the crown. What they lacked was probably the finishing job, after a fine start, complacency crept in and the bigger and experienced sides took advantage of their vulnerability to outsmart them.
Although Monaco managed to dethrone them from their French perch, reclaiming the dominance is not their goal anymore. The earth-shattering deal insures three things –
1. The French football would revolve around Paris again for the next few years
2. No more the dark horses, the current PSG squad along with Neymar will be one of the favourites to win the Champions League title next year
3. The market value of Ligue 1 and PSG will increase exponentially. And with a growth in viewership and market value, French domestic football may re-establish their lost glory days
The squad is already experienced enough in Europe, and Neymar gives them the ultimate edge which could bring them their much elusive continental glory. The victory could change the face of the French football with PSG and Monaco leading the way. As Neymar rightly said after joining PSG, “I came over here to make history”, the targets are already set for him and he’s aware that this team has the perfect supporting cast as well. If PSG manage to conquer Europe in coming years, this deal would eventually eclipse Maradona’s Napoli transfer in terms of individual impact and 220 million would look like a steal.
Changing Colours in Spain
Barcelona had dominated La Liga for last one decade, and the law of averages say a turning of table is inevitable. Since the appointment of Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid have never looked back. Zidane’s team have the best midfield in the world at this moment along with a bench-strength matched by none. And with the best striker of this generation, they not only conquered Europe but also deposed MSN from their throne at the peak of their game. This is the time, when Barcelona were planning to recover from Real’s knock-out punch and they lost their most dependable asset of coming years. Barcelona’s management had the vision to sign Neymar as the successor of the Argentine magician, and he was destined to replace Messi in coming years, but Messi himself made the choice difficult for everyone. Even in his thirties, he’s still the most lethal player in Blaugarana colours, and Neymar, despite having the best season of his Barcelona career, remained in Messi’s famous shadows. He was labelled as a prodigy in Brazil since his teenage, he even brought back the Copa Libertadores to Santos after 48 years, so it is safe to presume that he’s personality demands a certain level of excellence, and the choice to be the king in his own jungle had been very obvious from the start.
It is safe to presume that he’s personality demands a certain level of excellence, and the choice to be the king in his own jungle had been very obvious from the start
Barcelona cannot find a like-for-like replacement of Neymar in this market, neither could they replace Messi if he had left. So, the management did not have a lot of options here and decided to stay faithful to the Argentine. Now, Barcelona may have a bag full of money after selling Neymar, but money doesn’t play, so what options do they have at this moment? After seeing Neymar’s departure why would players like Eden Hazard or Paulo Dybala be interested in joining the sinking ship of the Catalonian giants? Yes, they might lure Liverpool’s Coutinho or Borussia Dortmund’s budding superstar Ousmane Dembélé with some ridiculous fees, but none of them have the capability to fill Neymar’s boot in this team. And although both Messi and Suarez individually have abilities to change the colour of the league, their challenge would be against the very best in the world. Seeing Barcelona’s ageing midfield at this moment, any pundit would predict that Madrid will definitely be running away with all the glory again, while Barcelona’s take away will be Messi’s goal-scoring celebrations as their consolation. So, beside the inflated market, this deal will only hurt Barcelona who have appointed their fourth manager in last five years few months back, and if their much hyped La Masia fails to deliver world-beating talents in next few years, this deal could turn into the death of Barcelona’s golden age.
All eyes on Russia
The 1-7 debacle is past now. Tite’s Brazil are now the ultimate favourites to rule over the world in the coming years again. Neymar, the undisputed leader of the Samba Boys has always been exceptional in national colours and his records at just 25 years of age would be envious to even superstars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. While Lionel Messi’s Argentina is struggling to qualify from South America, Brazil has become the first team to qualify for Russia 2018 and Neymar had been phenomenal as always. After the Olympic gold medal victory in 2016, their squad looks relentless. Brazil definitely know how to win titles and so does Neymar, the world have already witnessed it in the 2013 Confederation Cup. Although there will be some European challenges ahead of them, as both Germany and France could give them a hard fight. And as Russia will be hosting the tournament, it will be interesting to see how Brazil cope up with the difficulties. The only time Brazil lifted the elusive trophy in European soil, was when a certain 17-year-old wonder kid announced his arrival at the global stage. So, the challenge for Neymar would be to achieve the targets set by the greatest Brazilian footballer of all time.
As the World Cup is scheduled to take place in less than a year, this deal could play a historic role to reclaim Brazil’s dominance over world football again. Entire Brazil would be looking at their main-man to deliver in Russia, and this transfer could be a decisive factor in his individual and team’s overall performance. Although the first season in a new club could be unsettling which may impact his performance at the biggest stage for his country, on the brighter side of this deal, Brazil will have their core team playing together the entire season. The Samba boys reuniting in Paris should boost their journey to the top at the international level. The world cup victory would be the ultimate answer for Brazilians to the “Mineirazo whack” in 2014. The players have always had it difficult get into the right rhythm in international matches, and this has affected their performance inevitably. Both Spain and Germany, the winners of their last two world cup, had one thing in common. Their core team strengths were formed at club level, in Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively. The Paris renaissance with five Brazilians at the heart of it, could actually uplift the Yellow side to repeat the trend set by Spain-Germany.
Their core team strengths were formed at club level, in Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively. The Paris renaissance with five Brazilians at the heart of it, could actually uplift the Yellow side to repeat the trend set by Spain-Germany.
Neymar will definitely surpass Pele’s goal-scoring record for Brazil in the near future, but this transfer could definitely be a stepping stone for his aim to shine in the hall of fame amidst the greatest Brazilian footballers. And with the carnival starting in Russia in less than a year, Neymar couldn’t have found a better time to raise his game in the absence of Lionel Messi. So, the entire nation of Brazil will be following French football closely for the next one year and pray for their superhero to rise above all and get Brazilian football back to where it belongs.
Bigger than money
The involvement of Qatari money has raised questions at many level and theories have been cropping up about how this is nothing but an exhibit of their financial muscle-flexing before 2022 World Cup. While this saga is still a nightmare for millions of Barcelona fans around the world for many reasons, from Neymar’s perspective this definitely looks like the smartest possible move, keeping aside the fat paycheck he’s going to receive each month. He has crafted his career path with perfection, hence he joined Barcelona in his early twenties to learn from the very best in the world. Now he has chosen his next move very carefully, here he can create his own dynasty and he sees the potential in this club. Also, from game theory standpoint, this transfer can be defined as a minimax move where the philosophy is to minimize the possible loss for a worst-case scenario. More like, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern move, where he was not successful in true sense, but you can’t label him as failure as well. So, the money involved in this transfer may find all the limelight, but the underlying drivers are very strong in this case. Cristiano’s Madrid move was an era defining transfer and no other transfer in the recent times could influence modern football in such massive way. Only time will tell if Neymar can overcome his challenges in the next few years and make his transfer as remarkable as the Cristiano one, but it would be difficult for him to fail in Paris.
Goalden Times top few moments from World Cup 2014
Every World Cup brings in some unique moments. Some just fade away with time, some gets engraved in the football lovers’ memory forever. Subhashis Biswas from GT handpicks 11 best moments of World Cup 2014.
11. Guillermo Ochoa’s goalkeeping
During the second group match of the World Cup against Brazil, the world suddenly took notice of the long curly-haired head-band wearing Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. He saved a Neymar header when the ball was about to enter the goal, by flying to his right, ala Gordon Banks in 1970. He then saved a David Luiz header from point blank range in the second half, by sheer reflex. He again saved a shot from Hulk which had a goal written all over it. The ball did not enter the goal. Brazil were held to a 0-0 draw with Mexico largely due to Ochoa. Ochoa’s heroics continued in the next match against Croatia as well, and he denied Mario Mandzukic and Luka Modric from scoring as Mexico won 3-1 to enter the round of 16. In that match against Netherlands, Mexico was 1-0 up against Netherlands till the 87th minute. Ochoa again saved two close range efforts from the Dutch offense line, and one of the saves were as incredible as it can get, with pure reflex denying the Dutch a sure shot goal. . Finally a Wesley Sneijder thunder and an Arjen Robben theatrics denied Mexico further progress in the World Cup, but Guillermo Ochoa, the ex-AJ Ajaccio goalkeeper, now free agent at that, had won many hearts and applauds for his performances in the World Cup. Big clubs are already lining up to get the signature of this keeper on the dotted line.
10. Flying RVP
In their first group match, Spain was up 1-0 in the match, via a controversially awarded Xabi Alonso penalty following which Diego Costa went down in the box after minimal contact. Netherlands was desperate for an equaliser. Just before the halftime, in the 44th minute, left wing back Dale Blind received a ball near the centre line, towards left side of the pitch. He quickly noticed an advancing Robin van Persie near the Spanish penalty area, with three defenders backtracking towards their goal. Blind delivered a perfect left-footed cross, which took a parabolic trajectory and was going towards the Spanish penalty area. van Persie realised he was a little behind the ball, and also realised that Iker Casillas was way off his goal line. He threw his body in front, as if he was taking off to fly, and headed the cross with his body a good 2-3 feet above the ground, in a flying position. The header exploited the gap Casillas had left behind him and the ball looped inside the Spanish goal leaving the goalkeeper hopelessly stranded. The flying picture position of Robin van Persie was symbolic as it signalled the taking off of the Dutch Wrld Cup campaign (they won the match 5-1, and eventually finished 3rd in the World Cup
9. Spain’s disastrous campaign and early exit
The signs were evident in last year’s Confederations Cup. Yet victories in the qualifying campaign forced Vincente del Bosque in denial mode. But the shortcomings of Spain finally got brutally exposed in the final round. Spain ruled the world of football for 6 six years winning everything wthat was there to be won – . 2008 Euro, 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro. They were drawn in a tough group with Netherlands, Chile and Australia, but pundits expected them to win the group. Little did they expect that an ageing midfield, ineffective defence and nonexistent forward line would be unable to put up even a fight against the Dutch and Chile. Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets can no longer execute the “tiki-taka” brand of football with perfection they used to do around three years ago. Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos were never on the same page when an attack came towards Spanish defence. Add the embarrassment of Iker Casillas to this. The legendary goalkeeper, winner of several accolades in his illustrious career, was literally scrambling in kneel-down position inside the penalty area for most of the time against Netherlands and Chile. He conceded seven goals in two matches (in 1-5 loss to Netherlands and 0-2 defeat against Chile), and Spain exited the World Cup just after 180 minutes of football. The future, though, is bright for Spain with a lot of young talents like Ilaramendi, Isco, Thiago Alacantara, David de Gea, waiting in the ranks. But first, the football association has to get out of their self-denial mode.
8. Tim Howard’s heroics
USA always comes up with a fighting and spirited display in the World Cup . This time around, it was no exception. They were grouped with eventual winner Germany, always dangerous Portugal, and last edition’s quarter finalists Ghana in Group G. They emerged from that group with four points, defeating Ghana 2-1, sharing spoils with Portugal 2-2, and losing to Germany 0-1. Their inspirational goalkeeper, Everton’s Tim Howard was the mainstay as the last line of defence, making some incredible saves during the group stage, especially against an attacking Portugal side and eventual champions Germany. But Tim Howard’s heroics scaled a different level in the round of 16 match against Belgium. He denied Divock Origi several times; including a fist to clear a thunderous 20-yard drive by the striker. He denied his Everton colleague Kevin Mirallas with his feet in the 76th minute. Vincent Kompany then headed in Kevin de Bruyne’s cross goalwards but Howard’s heroics again denied him. These are just glimpses of Tim Howard’s monumental performance that day. He marshalled the whole defence, and took the game to extra time, only to succumb to goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. He made an incredible total of 16 saves – an all time record for the World Cup in recorded matches (since 1966) – , many of which would have been goals with any other goalkeeper on any other day. USA bowed out losing 1-2, but Tim Howard’s performance will remain as one of the greatest performances by a goalkeeper in a World Cup match.
7. Chile fans stormed media center
Chile faced Spain in Estadio Maracana on 18th of June in their second group match, with Chile having a chance to qualify for the next round with a win and knocking Spain out of the World Cup. But chaos is an understatement to what had happened just before the match. About 100 Chilean fans, without tickets to the match, and wearing replica Chile jerseys, broke into the media center inside the Maracana stadium. The fans ran through the media center, then broke a glass door, and took out temporary doors, partitions, TV sets – whatever came their way. Some of the fans started taking photos with their mobile phones as if it was a moment to savour for life!. A group of fans were shouting slogans and flaunting posters. The part of media center was not heavily guarded, and the fans got a free passage, and almost were in the hallway which lead to the field and locker room. The chaos lasted for about 20 minutes before the security personnel cordoned the area and forced about 85 fans to sit in front of a wall. Most of these personnels were later deported from the country within 72 hours. Chilean fans accused FIFA of making the ticket price high in Chile, and selling tickets illegally. According to them, all Chileans should be allowed to enter inside the stadium during a “Chile match” !
6. Klose world record
This was his fourth World Cup. Miroslav Klose had already scored five goals each in 2002 and 2006, and four goals in 2010. He needed two more goals in 2014 edition to surpass Ronaldo as all time leading scorer in World Cups. Germany heavily relied on their midfield in this edition of the Cup, with Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil providing the attacking threat upfront. Klose, therefore, was not the main target man, according to Joaechim Loew’s plans. He was an unused substitute in the first match against Portugal, where Muller stole the limelight with a hattrick. Klose came in as substitute for Mario Goetze as Germany was trailing 1-2 to Ghana in their second group match (only time Germany trailed in the whole tournament). Within two minutes of coming in, he tapped in from close range after a corner, to equalise the score at 2-2. Having equalled the goals tally on 15 with Ronaldo,. Klose had to wait till the semifinal match-up against Brazil to score again. Germany routed Brazil 7-1 in that match. Klose scored the second goal for Germany in the 23rd minute in a 7-1 rout. Brazil’s meltdown stole all the limelight , but the silent assassin had done enough to register himself permanently in the World Cup history books.
5. Neymar’s fracture
The game between Brazil and Colombia in the round of 16 was not for the purists a clean one. Total 54 fouls were committed. Brazil started the brutality with a series of fouls on Colombian youngster James Rodriguez – and ended that match with a staggering 31 fouls — the highest in a World Cup match since they were recorded from1966 – and slowly Colombian defenders and midfielders started to return the favour . Defender Juan Zuniga was probably the most hostile of them all. He committed a foul on Hulk in the first half which should have resulted in a yellow card. But the defining moment came on the 87th minute of the match. Brazil was winning 2-1, and Colombia was in search of an equaliser. An aerial ball came towards Neymar, and Zuniga was just behind him. Before Neymar could reach the ball, Zuniga leap-frogged over Neymar’s shoulder and tried to reach the ball. In the process, Zuniga’s knee collided fiercely with Neymar’s back. Immediately the poster boy of Brazilian football fell to the ground, writhing in pain. Medical help arrived, assessed the seriousness of the injury, and stretchered him off immediately to the hospital. The doctors diagnosed that there is a fracture at the transverse process below third lumbar vertebra, which means the fracture is at the spinal cord ! Had it been a couple of inches lower, Neymar could have been paralyzed for life. The fracture did not require surgery, but needed rest and minimal movement for recovery. Neymar was out of the World Cup, and so was Brazil, a match later, against Germany in the semi-final. Neymar lying on the ground, writhing in pain, became symbolic with Brazil’s exodus from the cup of their dreams.
4. The viral image of David Luiz cheering up James
Brazil faced Colombia in the quarter final, with one James Rodriguez hogging as much limelight as Neymar Junior before the match. James Rodriguez had scored five goals in four matches prior to the QF match, with a brace against Uruguay in the round of 16 match. His dazzling runs, dribbles, quick passing, left footed volleys and intelligent positioning had impressed football lovers around the world, and a tough match was on the cards against the Brazilians. Brazil did not give him much space though,; with Fernandinho and Marcello marking him tight during the match, Rodriguez was at the receiving end of many fouls committed by Brazil. Brazil took an early lead via Thiago Silva from the corner, and David Luiz doubled the lead via a free kick in the 2nd half. Rodriguez scored his sixth goal (and would eventually win the Golden Boot) via a penalty in the dying minutes of the match, but Colombia lost 1-2 to bow out of the tournament. Colombia won many hearts through their display of attractive skilful football. James Rodriguez cried inconsolably after the match, as the dream of a budding youngster was shattered by the host nation. David Luiz then walked up to embrace Rodriguez, exchanged jerseys with him, and pointed towards him and encouraged the crowd to appreciate the efforts of this sensational young player. The image of Luiz pointing towards Rodriguez went viral across social and print media, and became a symbol of affection and sportsman spirit during the World Cup.
3. Brazil’s fan handing cup to German fan
Clovis Acosta Fernandes,the 58-year old man with the hat and moustache, as the whole world recognises him, has been to every World Cup since 1990 and many a Copa America, totalling to over 150 international matches. He travels with the Brazil team and this is his seventh World Cup, the first one at home. Clovis carried a replica trophy of the World Cup, which is almost exactly of the similar size of the original. Only difference according to him, was that his trophy was “kissed” much more times than the original. He is often known as Brazil’s 12th man.
He was in the stands at Belo Horizonte, on 8th of July during the semi-final between Brazil and Germany. He could not believe what was happening before his eyes. Germany won the match 7-1, leading 5-0 after only 30 minutes of football. The whole country was weeping, crying. Clovis was crying. Clovis hugged the trophy with tearful eyes, as if he did not want to let his dream evaporate and was instantly labelled the the Saddest Man in Brazil all over the international media. But this man has a golden heart. After the match, Clovis walked up to a lady, who was a German fan, , handed the trophy over to her, and said ”Take this trophy with you to Maracana. It is in good hands with you. Congratulations.“ His gesture won him admiration from across the world, and showed everyone that football is all about sportsman spirit and big heart.
2. Ghana cash convoy
A series of three cars, flanked by five police cars- a convoy of total of eight cars were moving along the highway entering Brasilia, where Ghana was supposed to play Portugal in their last group match. The unusualness of this incident was that- those cars were carrying more than $3 million in cash! Yes, this was probably the only instance in World Cup history where the national federation of a country had to pay that large amount in cash to its players, that too in the face of an imminent threat to boycott just before they took the field in a World Cup match. According to their star player, Kevin- Prince Boateng, the preparation for the World Cup was a shambolic one. The Ghana team had to fly economy class on a a 12-hour flight, and stay in hotel rooms where the ceilings leaked and the rooms were flooded. The players were not paid their dues, and Ghana’s football federation did not use the money they received from FIFA for World Cup preparations. Immediately Boateng and fellow senior player Sulley Muntari were suspended and sent back home by Ghana Football Fedeartion. Ghana’s president John Mahama had to intervene and the “cash convoy” arrived in Brasilia, and the players then agreed to take the field against Portugal. Social media was flooded with the images of the cash convey arriving at the hotel with armed escort and defender John Boye kissing a stack of money after it arrived by armed escort. Apparently the players wanted the money in cash as most of them did not have even bank accounts back home! Ghana lost the match 1-2 and bowed out from the tournament with only 1 point. They were the only team not to be beaten by Germany though (2-2 draw), and only team who actually led eventual winner Germany during the World Cup.
1. Suarez Biting
Italy and Uruguay – both the teams were on three points having defeated England and lost to Costa Rica ! The superior goal difference meant Italy needed a draw where Uruguay had to win the match to qualify for the next round. The match was never entertaining, as both the teams were really aggressive and frequent fouls stopped the game from gathering any momentum. . Claudio Marchisio was sent off in the 59th minute, and the Italians were fighting hard to hold off Uruguay for rest of the match. Around the 79th minute of the match, an off the ball incident left the world completely in shock. Luis Suarez had jumped on to Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder, then covered his face with his palm and fell on ground. Chiellini was on the ground as well, but immediately got up, exposed his shoulder from his shirt and showed the bite mark to the referee. Suarez was sitting on the ground holding his teeth!! Referee did not punish Suarez, a bemused and shell shocked Italian team conceded from a corner through Diego Godin two minutes later, and had to go back home.
Suarez and Uruguay team tried to downplay the incident initially, but later, after criticism poured in from around the world, FIFA took the matter seriously. After investigation, FIFA handed a four-month and nine- match ban to Luis Suarez. Uruguay lost to Colombia 0-2 in the round of 16 match and bowed out of the competition.