Russia 2018 - The Non linear World Cup





So many games, so little time. Yet time slows as though you are sat in class at half past two on a Friday afternoon in the Summer. Except in a good way because you savour every second. Does that make sense? I hope not because World Cups aren't supposed to make sense, this one most of all.

Adam Curtis in his documentarily HyperNormalisation tells us of non linear warfare as prosecuted by Putin's Russia. It's also called Hybrid warfare. Essentially it's the practice of waging war via propaganda, diplomacy foreign electoral intervention, cyberwarfare and, from time to time, guns and bombs. The objective being to keep your opponent in a state of disarray and confusion, unable to guess what's going to happen next and uncertain of existing realities that seemed immutable.

World Cups can have a similar effect and this World Cup has a distinct feeling of end of days. Fitting then that it should be held in Russia.

This World Cup, heralded the end of the Messi, Ronaldo era. Neither of these two players are finished. We have many more games to enjoy these two giants striding the Football landscape. Messi is 31 and CR7 is 33. However, the prospect of these two great players, who embody the who's side are you on mentality that dogs our age, leaving an indelible mark on a World Cup seems unlikely.

But nature abhors a vacuum and the rise of this youthful French team spearheaded by the 19 year old phenom, Kyllian M'Bappe have already begun to take their places on the walls of hopeful children, dreaming of scoring a goal in the World Cup final themselves one day. Elsewhere, Eden Hazard, at 27 has another World Cup in him and has signified his desire to move away from Chelsea. If the Belgian gets his wish and moves to Real Madrid then a bounty of club riches awaits him plus the kind of fame that he has not yet known. These are among the Ballon D'Or winners of the future.

This World Cup also sent a Balkan team to the final and not before time. This region of Europe has produced some beautiful players over the decades with little return. While not everyone in that part of the world was pleased to see them succeed, from a strictly football point of view, it was satisfying to see Luka Modri?, Ivan Rakiti?, Mario Mandžuki? et al perform on the greatest stage of all.

And speaking of the Balkans this World Cup also saw Switzerland in an interesting game, against Serbia. Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka "Eagle" celebrations got them into trouble but they also exemplified the raw emotion of that match. Plus, they told us something about the complexities and nuances of nationality and national identity.

This World Cup also saw a young man, backed by all his teammates in the Swedish national team stand up to racists. No one needed to tell Jimmy Durmaz' what conceding that last minutes free-kick to Germany meant to the outcome of that game and that an historic opportunity for a famous victory was missed. By standing up to the racists who abuse him on social media, they isolated them and said that whatever success the team would go onto achieve was not their success.

This World Cup also saw Iranian women attend football matches. A privilege denied them in their homeland. Perhaps some of those images made it back to Iran and serve as a catalyst for meaningful change.


And this World Cup gave us a decent England team that enjoyed the good fortune of squeezing passed a Columbia side shorn of James Rodriguez and finally winning a World Cup penalty shootout then comfortably beating Sweden before deservedly losing out to a superior Croatia. The "it's coming home" meme that irritated many non-English people, served to allow us a brief moment of unity before we all got back on our heads.

This World Cup saw the dubious first round exit of Senegal who fell foul of the tournament's rules whereby disciplinary points are used to separate teams on equal points and goal difference in the group stage. Many African commentators feel that this rule hurts the African team. This argument is base upon reports in other sports on racial bias towards black sportsmen by referees. I don't know if there is anything in this but given that racism exists in all other institutions it would be naïve to say it doesn't exist in football officiating. FIFA should review this rule as a matter of urgency.

If that weren't enough this World Cup final saw intervention, in the form of an on-pitch protest, from the protest art group, Pussy Riot. If Adam Curtis were watching, he might imagine that Putin allowed it as a demonstration of Russia's political plurality. In all seriousness this protest may well have great significance in the future and the courage of those protesters cannot be overstated. To embarrass the president in such a way and on such a stage is likely to be met with a severe penalties. It behoves the international press to keep a spotlight on proceedings and their treatment of these four women as they go to trial.

Of course there was so much more: VAR shenanigans: the humiliation of Robert Lewandowski; the debagging of Neymar. Not to mention Spain and Germany. Good grief what happened there?

Truly this was a World Cup that challenged the existing order and left us wondering what would be happening next. It was very much a non-linear World Cup in the home of non-liner warfare. No doubt Adam Curtis is cracking his knuckles in preparation for writing a script for another documentary.

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