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The eyes of the world will be focused on Russia this week as the football World Cup once again takes centre stage.
32 nations will converge on Russia all dreaming of lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy and returning to their homeland as heroes. The usual nations are once again being tipped to battle it out at the pointy end of the tournament including five times winners Brazil and four times winners Germany.
Individuals will also be hoping that they can put their best foot forward in helping lead their respective countries to glory. The usual suspects such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are expected to light up the tournament in Russia.
Young talents in Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Marco Asensio will also be gracing the World Cup for the very first time bringing a youthful exuberance mixed with an innate ability to change a game in an instance.
The World Cup though also provides a platform for the unexpected wherein both individuals and countries are able to destabilise the established. This I believe is the true essence of the World Cup wherein football is able to provide an arena for nations big and small to celebrate in the unification of sport.
Sport has the ability to showcase both the best and worst sides of human nature as demonstrated in the European Championships in France in 2016 where English and Russian fans clashed violently in Marseille.
The concerns and social unrest in Russia have been a major talking point leading up to the start of the World Cup with ticket requests especially from English fans significantly down in comparison from four years ago in Brazil. Russia has looked to play down any concerns from travelling fans by beefing up security and reassuring fans that Russian Ultras will not be an issue at the tournament.
These social concerns though represent a microcosm of a wider global society which finds itself at a significant point in history. The rise of right winged political movements throughout Europe as well as the appointment of Donald Trump as the president of the United States showcase a dangerous trend away from an open global society.
The rise of terrorism and the global financial crisis, which is still being felt across Europe, has once again given rise to the fear of, ‘the other’. The World Cup though provides an event, which is able to cut through these stigmas and celebrate the participation of countries from all five continents.
Language and cultural differences can be put aside as the symbolism of the singular round ball represents the significant global gathering.
Football is truly the only world game and now more than ever this ability to unify needs to be brought to the fore. The global community is at a tipping point with Russia being handed the responsibility to not only host a successful and smooth tournament, but one that might just also remind society of the importance of an open and fluid global connectedness.