In case if anyone’s wondering, it’s the football World Cup season at the moment.
That once-in-four-years moment when wives relinquish control of the TV remote (most households anyway) to their husbands and sons (and daughters too, maybe) and either join them to watch the football on the telly or quietly slip into a corner of the house, armed with the latest romance novel, a pot of hot tea and snacks.
But normally not before preparing drinks and snacks for the football crazy nuts they lovingly called their loved ones.
You know, the World Cup played with a round ball, between two opposing teams of 11 players each and officiated by millions, literally millions, all over the world.
Despite the millions of ‘referees’, only one matters and even he, complete with two-way communication, is assisted by a team of ‘advisors’ : two armed with flags, one armed with an electronic board and starting from this edition of the World Cup, an additional four armed with TV monitors.
All this in an effort to maintain order and trying to be fair to all concerned ie the teams and the millions of fans.
On the field, the World Cup is where teams from all corners of the world vie for that solid 18 carat 36 cm gold statue, of whom only a few but select men have ever lifted that 6kg piece of gold statue above their heads, in jubilation.
For World Cup Russia 2018, a total of 64 games have been scheduled, from the group games to the knock-out phases.
The teams touted as the ones to watch are Brazil (when have they ever been not expected to win the World Cup!?), Germany (the tournament team, if ever there was one), Argentina (with Messi on board, why not!?), Spain, France and England, forever the dark horse of the World Cup, whenever they qualify that is.
It’s now Game 2 of the group phase and if anything, no team can be taken for granted. The gaps between the teams taking part have lessened and like previous editions of the World Cup, ‘unknowns’ have come to the fore whilst some so-called ‘superstars’ are struggling to stamp their mark.
The World Cup has always been known to never lack in games that excite the millions of fans worldwide, with the footballing skills many would just love to emulate, never mind admire.
The back heels ala Brazil, the mazy dribble ala Maradona, the flicks off the side of the foot ala Brazil (either left or right but never both at the same time), the curlers (not the housewives’ version), the thunderbolts that threatens to rip the net, the ever so exquisite and technically difficult half and full volleys, the grounders that caresses the blades of grasses of the football pitch on the way to goal, are amongst some of the many skills on show.
One of the exciting developments of the recent World Cups is that all these skills are now no more the sole copyright of any one team but rather, to all the teams on show.
So wonderful to watch when it comes off, and so awful when it does not. Some so bordering on the comical, that its fair to say that you feel for them.
The World Cup is also the platform for players to show what a good player they are, in the hope of securing the attention of football scouts and teams, with the hope of securing new and improved playing contracts and thus securing for themselves a better and prosperous future.
Some have even stated that this will be the last time they will ever be playing on the world stage and have started to look ahead to the time their boots will no more feel the touch of a football, to plan accordingly.
The call of Hollywood is never far away. Ask Vinnie Jones, one who can now call himself an actor. Shakespearian, maybe not but an actor nevertheless.
But not when he was playing the game. Tough guy? Yes. Actor? No.
The most obvious of these ‘skills’ is diving, with the skills shown by some of these would-be Hollywood actors (or stuntmen for that matter), putting some international springboard and platform divers to shame, the way they somersault and twist and turn on the way to hitting the ground to be followed by several rolls, clutching, at the same time, whichever part of the foot or body or face that is allegedly injured.
All for the world to see and sympathise, each scene to be repeated over and over again, frame by frame, on TV screens all over the world, in slow motion before the ‘juries’ award them their respective scores of ‘9.0, 9.5, 9.5…..’, to be followed by the derision and scorn of millions in the many spoken languages of the world united in the language of football.
But still, millions tune in to watch these matches, with high expectations and hoping for a feast of the exciting skills these players, lucky enough to be able to play on a world stage that is the World Cup, put on show only for these skills to be emulated on football fields all over the world the very next day.
Green or brown, flat or potholed, open fields or within the confines of an enclosed building, it does not matter.
Whether the style of play is tiki taka, diamond, 4-3-3, 4-2-2, three at the back or lone striker up front, what does it matter.
Just to play the game is joy enough, what more to be able to execute the very same ball skills witnessed during the World Cup.
Football is, after all, called the beautiful game.