Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Football reigns unrivalled in the hearts and minds of the masses

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Preparations are underway at the  Arena de Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the opening game of the World Cup will take place.
Preparations are underway at the Arena de Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the opening game of the World Cup will take place.

The World Cup gets under way 22 days from now. No 'Fifa' prefix needed.

One need say nothing more than 'the 1970 World Cup' to have those of us old enough to remember that tournament instantly recalling Gordon Banks' miraculous base-of-the-post save to deny Pele and Brazil's fourth goal against Italy. You don't even need to add 'in the final'.

Remember Clodoaldo dismissing four defenders before finding Rivelino? He in turn fed Jairzinho who had moved wide left, crucially taking the man-marking Italian left-back and captain Facchetti with him.

That left Pele in space and when Jairzinho passed to him, the genius number 10 swivelled and waited before rolling the ball into the path of right-back Carlos Alberto, whose right-foot finish flew into the net.

Perfection on sport's biggest stage, the World Cup Final.

Now there is a super summer of sport ahead: Wimbledon, next month's rugby tours by each of the Home Nations – Ireland to Argentina, England to New Zealand, Wales to South Africa and Scotland to three different continents for Tests against four nations, namely the US Eagles, Canada, Argentina and South Africa – the Commonwealth Games plus England's Test matches against Sri Lanka and India. But the rest of us know those are support acts to the headline event.

An estimated global television audience of over one billion will watch the World Cup Final from the Maracana Stadium on July 13. Because for all its faults – and they are many – football reigns unrivalled in the hearts and minds of the masses.

It's the People's Game, end of.

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