Football like no other sport on planet Earth has once again demonstrated its ability to attract worldwide attention and genuine interest. This time it went to a whole new level as Paul the Octopus showed the world that football knowledge is not limited to couch potatoes and bar flies.
The Nineteenth Edition of the World Cup has come to a close with Spain winning their first title and the parties will ring long into the night in a country where even generational rivalries will be put aside to celebrate the achievement and the pride of a nation. Spain will be only the 8th nation out of over 200 affiliates to win this 1 foot high chunk of 18 carat gold and are the first to do so after losing their first match.
For me football is a game of exasperation. No matter what the result, very few games generate such controversy and discussion over the 'what ifs' and 'if onlys'. In lounge rooms, clubs and bars across the world, there will be conversations on the final match, scrutiny over the referees and their power to determine the outcomes of games and as the heat cools analysis of the salaries paid to players and coaches and the surprise performances of teams that were given no chance. Sport in general and football in particular boasts millions of experts world wide who have well considered opinion on how the game should be played, coached and refereed and there was enough going on in this world cup to keep those conversations going for the next 10 years.
In the end however, Paul the Octopus was right..., Spain are champions. End of Story. (I wonder if he watches TV??). Even if he doesnt, he brings a whole new meaning to the term 'Armchair Expert".
The pleasing aspect of this world cup from the sport development point of view was the fact that all four top teams were coached by their own nationals. This is an issue for me that is important as we see coaches pedal their expertise all over the world in search of fame and fortune. It is great to see the most successful teams in the world being coached by their own people. To me this indicates a road well travelled and a sport system that has faith in its own. That is not to say these coaches have not gained considerable experience coaching in other countries. This is a good thing and part of the journey as many players also must seek out the competitive opportunities that they need to reach the top.
These days the wealthy European Leagues attract the best players and coaches from all over the world to ply their trade and this is all part of the system. But for a national campaign to be successful I remain routed to the belief that it needs to happen from within the country and by people of ability and vision who are willing to spread their wings but remain loyal to their culture and their language.
Developing World countries are particularly susceptible to paying large sums of money to coaches and consultants to come in and win it for them. The fact that only Ghana made the top eight from the developing world is proof enough of the folly in this belief. Buying in a foreign coach can only lead to the next step which would be to buy in your player as well. In some sports this even happen as athletes are rapidly given passports so thay can represent their adopted country. The results are usually disappointing and for me, even if victory results, it is short lived glory and very hollow at that.
So well done to Spain and all the countries who made the finals. Especially well done to those who travelled the 'road called sport' and developed the system and personnel from within their own ranks that has lead to their current position in the world of football. Enjoy the moment as the 20th World Cup is just around the corner.
Finally congratulations to the FIFA for bringing this amazing event to all corners of the planet and being so willing to spread the profits of it to develop the game of football at all levels. For me I cant wait for the day when a country like New Zealand whose player value is overall worth less that just one player in the fancied Euro giants will go all the way to win the world cup just by following the well trodden path of sport development..