Without a doubt, anything football related is among the most sensitive topics I have touched upon in the Netherlands. No matter who I ask, dissatisfaction seems to be the mood when football is evoked. The Netherlands, having one of the most respected sides in world football, fell surprisingly short of expectations, failing to qualify for one of sport’s most prestigious tournaments. For a nation that has Cruijff as a national hero, the irritation is quite understandable. As for myself, as a seasoned veteran viewer of the sport who coincidentally supports Italy, I can completely understand the frustration.
Up until now my initial plan was to completely ignore this year’s tournament. In my view, a tournament riddled with controversies, corruption, political friction and lacking two of the world’s most important football nations completely detracted my attention from the most important aspect of football: the beautiful game itself.
But this year’s tournament has been completely different in the most positive of ways. Nowhere in my recent memory have I seen so many passionate teams defying the odds and beating nations that were seen as invincible, like Germany or Argentina. Nowhere in my recent memory have I been sitting tensed up in my chair sweating over the slow progression of matches waiting for the next occurrence. And nowhere in my recent memory have I been jumping, cheering and celebrating goals for nations I have zero connections with such as Nigeria, Mexico and Uruguay.
Against the odds, simply watching this world cup has been a deeply gratifying experience. Even when the tournament has been marred by controversy, the players have battled through these disputes to bring a tournament that lives up to its prestige. More than just fandom for a specific team, I have seen the more complex and deeper purpose of football. A sport that evokes adrenaline, desperation, trauma and gratification; all encompassed in the space of 90 minutes.
For the disenchanted people from the nations that were left out, for the disenchanted people who think the controversy has disparaged football, or for the disenchanted people who don’t even watch football, I can’t recommend enough watching a couple of World Cup matches. More than just simple entertainment, the madness of this World Cup has reignited my diminishing expectations for the sport.
Pietro Vigilanza from Venezuela lives in Rotterdam since two years and studies IBCoM