Every once in a while time stand still and the people of the world can do nothing but sit and watch, open-mouthed, their hearts beating like drums in awe.
Four years have passed since that fateful summer night in Lyon, France when eleven men stepped onto the world's stage with their heads held high and won Iran its first World Cup victory in 1998. I remember those days so very clearly. How could I forget? Thanks to men like Ali Daei and Khodadad Azizi, whose would later become household names, an entire nation was given a reason to wave their flags in the air and chant “Iran Dooset Darim!”
I wish I could go over the history of the World Cup that I have come to know so well, but it is waste of time because although there are many like me who worship what his highness, Pele, called “the beautiful game”, there are also those who understand nothing of it. Their blood is not stirred after witnessing a hat trick; the hair on their arms does not rise when they hear Andres Cantor scream his famous “Gooooooaaaallll!!!” on the Spanish channel, and they do not know the top number 10s in the world.
In 1962, the Chileans coined a phrase that went something like this, “Because we have nothing, we will do EVERYTHING.”
To me, this is to become the famous slogan of this year's World Cup tournament. The defeat of defending champion France at the hands of Senegal — a tiny African country that they had once colonized — was the perfect start to what I am hoping will be one of the greatest games ever to be played. I dedicate my prayers and my cheers to the hope that this Cup will be that of the Third World and the underdog.
China, Turkey, Senegal, Japan, Ecuador…
These teams are rarley mentioned amidst all the talk of Brazil and Argentina, France and Portugal. But they will surprise us because they have nothing to lose. They are not world champions; they do not have multi-million-dollar shoe deals, and their jerseys don't sell for a fortunes. They are merely lovers of the game and the countries which they represent. Many were born into poverty and turned the hunger in their bellies into fire and used that fire to gain speed, technique and agility. They have run and skid barefoot on sand, stone, and snow. They know what passion is and where it comes from and what it is born out of.
I wish them luck…
Here's to a Cup unlike any other before it.
(Take notes Iranians, four years goes by in a flash..)