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The World Cup 2018 - The greatest competition on earth!

It’s that time again! The World Cup is upon us - the event that brings out strong emotions for all of us, even if our team didn’t quite make it. But do you know why?

The world cup is for everyone, young and old

The greatest competition on earth! Many have named the World Cup just that. Even if you don’t really like soccer, even if your country isn’t playing that year, or doesn’t get through the first rounds, whether you’re 8 or 80, the World Cup almost feels like one big national bank holiday. People feel united, patriotic and (almost) forget that their neighbour normally supports a different soccer team because during the World Cup there are no other teams, everyone stands together behind the colours of their countries.

But why do we get so excited? Forget about other bigger problems around us, entire countries stop working and even national conflicts get put on hold. Let’s take a closer look at why the World Cup moves us the way it does and has done for so many years. But before we do, take a look at the video below. If you’re not excited yet, you will be after this homage to the glorious World Cup, made by a really big fan!

Table of contents

Why do we enjoy competitions like the World Cup?
A short historic overview from Uruguay 1930 to Russia 2018
Walking Soccer – a great way to stay in the game

Why do we enjoy competitions like the World Cup?

When we look at our own lives, we’ve all been in a competition at one point or another. It could have been at school when we were younger, or as an adult, even if it was only a pub quiz! Did you like being a part of it? It’s very probable that you at least felt excited and had an urge to win.

Dr. Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist at Cambridge University, explains the psychology behind competition. He talks about how competition has negative as well as positive aspects. A competition is what they call a “zero-sum” game – it means that when someone wins, someone else loses. That, however, doesn’t stop us from participating, organizing and cheering other people on in competitions.

For most people, there is something inexplicably compelling about the nature of competition. Perhaps that’s because, as some scholars argue, “competitiveness” is a biological trait that co-evolved with the basic need for (human) survival.” Dr. van der Linden explains. He also gives examples of how competition is present in (almost) every expect of our modern society. We find that we become competitive in everything, from the human search for love to basic competition between companies (the latter of which is apparently quite beneficial for the economy).

fans watching world cup

Source: Fans experience an emotional rollercoaster when watching their country play at the World Cup.

United through sports

It’s pretty safe to say that soccer, or in this specific case, the World Cup, is an emotional rollercoaster. After all, soccer is the most popular sport in the world so it’s only logical that its biggest and most international competition would get peoples’ hearts racing. But it’s also something that makes you feel the way it “wants” you to feel. Brian Philips, staff writer for Grantland and author of some interesting columns about sports and their fans, wrote the following: “Sport is like music or fiction or film in that, for a predetermined duration, it asks you to give it control over your emotions, to feel what it makes you feel”.

Sport is like music or fiction or film in that, for a predetermined duration, it asks you to give it control over your emotions, to feel what it makes you feel”. Brian Philips – Grantland

In other words, in the month during which everyone (well, almost everyone) relishes in the joys and despairs the World Cup supplies, we get the chance to completely immerse ourselves in it. Important problems might become trivial when you compare it to your country having a shot at becoming this year’s world champion! You feel part of something bigger, part of a community of likeminded people who all just want one thing: to win. Watching the games is often associated with spending time with friends and family, having fun and having a couple of beers (which could then turn into a few more).

Even when watching it alone or with just a couple of people, you still feel part of something bigger. People who are on vacation, or not in their own country when watching the World Cup, tend to feel even more united and patriotic because they feel the need to represent their people; their glorious country (have you ever noticed how the word glorious is put in front of just about anything during the World Cup?) It’s truly a time that we are united by sports and (mostly) healthy competition.

A short historic overview from Uruguay 1930 to Russia 2018

How and where did it all begin? We have to look back quite a long way! The very first international soccer game was all the way back in 1872, when a Scotland Vs. England match ended with a 0-0 draw. The sport became more and more popular and started being included in the Summer Olympics. When FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) was founded in 1904, it did its best to set up an international soccer competition outside the Olympics, however, due to its low popularity back then, it was not successful.

In the summers of 1908 and 1912 England won Olympic Gold medals for soccer, which could still only be played by amateurs. In 1914 FIFA took on the challenge of organizing an Olympic tournament which back them was described as a “world soccer championship for amateurs”. After that, the first intercontinental soccer competition was held in Belgium during the 1920 Olympics, and won by the host country themselves. The next two Olympic competitions were won by Uruguay, who then hosted the first official FIFA World Cup in 1930.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the 20 World Cups that have taken place since 1930:

“We were 15 days on the ship Conte Verde getting out there. We embarked from Villefranche-sur-Mer in company of the Belgians and the Yugoslavians. We did our basic exercises down below and our training on deck.” French Football player Lucien Laurent on their trip to the first World Cup in 1930.

1930 – the first FIFA World Cup in Uruguay


1930 Uruguay World Cup

Source: Wikipedia

13 countries participated, 7 from South America and only 4 from Europe. The long journey by sea, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Uruguay, meant that not one European country pledged to take part in the competition. It was only two months before the tournament took place that the 4 countries that did end up taking part (Belgium, France, Romania, and Yugoslavia) were convinced to participate. 590,549 supporters attended the cup in total and Uruguay won in the final against Argentina, making them the very first FIFA World Cup winners ever! A quote from one of the soccer players on the French team, Lucien Laurent, (who also scored the very first World Cup goal ever) gives us an idea of what it must have been like to take part in the event so many years ago: “We were 15 days on the ship Conte Verde getting out there. We embarked from Villefranche-sur-Mer in company of the Belgians and the Yugoslavians. We did our basic exercises down below and our training on deck. The coach never spoke about tactics at all.” Taking part back then could not have been more different to the billion-dollar soccer industry we have today.

And thank goodness for mass media! Want to see it for yourself? Take a peek at this footage from the final in 1930!

The Maracanaço – the 1950 World Cup in Brazil

The Maracanaço - the 1950s World Cup in Brazil

Source: Wikipedia

Even though it was quite some years after the first World Cup, this was only the 4th Cup ever – the previous one had been in 1938. This was due to the competitions in 1942 and 1946 having been cancelled because of WW II and its aftermath. The 1950 World Cup was also the first cup British nations participated in, as they had withdrawn from FIFA back in 1920, partly because they did not want to play against countries they had been at war with. Dramatically, England lost against the US 1-0 in the final qualifiers, but due to a typing error, news reports relayed that England had won 10-0! Some countries refused to take part, some were banned (for example Germany and Japan, who were still occupied) and some could not afford for their team to make the long journey all the way to Brazil. This meant that in the end, only 13 countries participated, and Uruguay took home the trophy just like they had done the first time. Uruguay won the final match (called The Maracanaço) by scoring the decisive goal with only 11 minutes to go. This would be the last time (to date) that two South American countries have played against each other in the final of the World Cup. As you might imagine, for a nation that lives and breathes soccer like Brazil, this was a national tragedy for many Brazilians. Take a look at the final moments of this (for many), tragic final:

The quadrennial World Cup in Argentina in 1978

The quadrennial World Cup in Argentina 1978

Source: Wikipedia

In 1978, the number of teams was still far fewer than it is today – only 16 teams took part (32 teams participated in the last World Cup, in 2014). Argentina won, beating the Dutch “clockwork orange” even though they were at the height of their glory years. This was particularly painful for the Dutch, as they had lost in the previous World Cup final as well. It’s still a memory that brings a tear to the eye of many Orange supporters! 1,545,723 people in total attended the World Cup matches, and Argentina won 3-1 with Mario Kempes scoring twice! However, as there had been a military coup only 2 years before, some soccer players like star Johan Cruyff refused to attend. Take a look at how the goals were scored during this nerve-racking finale and how the Argentinians won their first world title:

The Coupe du Monde – France, 1998

The Coup de Monde in France 1998

Source: Wikipedia

The 16th FIFA World Cup was held in France, although this was not France’s first time hosting the international sporting event, their first time being in 1938. It was during this World Cup, in 1998, that one country defeated its opponent with the widest margin in history! Iran beat the Maldives 17-0, which had to hurt! This was also the year the Golden Goal was introduced (the first goal scored during extra time ends the game, making the scoring team the winners). In the final, France beat Brazil 3-0, meaning France won on their own turf. It was also Croatia’s first time at the World Cup, and they made a big impression when they finished in third!


Russia’s 2018 World Cup

Russia’s 2018 World Cup

Source: Wikipedia

The World Cup hadn’t been held in Europe for 12 years when it was held in Germany in 2006. However, this will be the very first time it’s held in Eastern Europe. Russia won the hosting rights with its high bid in 2010, but although matches are usually held all around the country, due to the size of Russia, it was decided that all matches will be held in the European part of Russia to keep travel times down. Iceland and Panama are making their World Cup debuts this year! Iceland made a lasting impression in the last European Cup with their skillful soccer playing and their inspirational Haka-inspired chants. Let’s hope this will be a unifying World Cup, and that a love of soccer will inspire all nations in the best possible way.

Women’s World Cup – France 2019

The next Women’s World Cup will be in France 2019


Source: The next Women’s World Cup will be in France 2019

Unfortunately, the Women’s World Cup has always been a lot less popular then the men’s version. The FA banning women’s soccer until 1971 didn’t do the sport any favours, and so the very first official Women’s World Cup was only held in 1991. The history is therefore very short, although there have been records and evidence that shows female figures depicted in frescoes as far back as the Han Dynasty playing an early form of soccer! There’re also documents mentioning women’s soccer in Scotland in 1790 and the first recorded game between women was as far back as 1895. Although the women’s version could never compare to the men’s in terms of the massive interest, infrastructure, merchandising and media that surrounds it, it’s still going strong, and has been steadily gaining popularity since 1991. Teams from the United States and Germany have always been very strong. Canada’s women’s team is more successful than the men’s team and has won several soccer competitions over the years! They’ve sadly never won the World Cup, but they’ve won several medals in the Cyprus Cup including 3 gold medals, and gold medals in the Pan-American Games, the Algarve Cup and the Four Nations Tournament. You never know what might happen! The next Women’s World Cup will be in 2019 in France. Let’s hope popularity continues to grow, as these women are ready to kick it!

Walking Soccer – a great way to stay in the game

Walk, don’t run! Walking Soccer, we’ve written about this subject before. We even sponsored a Walking Soccer tournament in Italy back in April 2016. Walking Soccer is for anybody over 50 years old who still wants to be involved in playing the game, but for some reason (for example, reduced mobility) can’t play the running version of the game anymore. It’s only logical that our bodies can’t endure the same amount of physical stress as they could when we were younger. For those who love the game but don’t feel up to the (sometimes rather aggressive) passes, this is a great option. Walking Soccer promotes cardiovascular fitness, which helps people who participate in it to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Originally, Walking Soccer was played without goalkeepers, however, they have been added to some of the games, especially in the UK.

Walking Soccer – a great way to stay in the game

If you want to get involved, here are some differences between Walking Soccer and ‘normal’ soccer:

If you want to read all the rules and regulations, this link will show you all there is to know.

This year’s World Cup was held in Bristol in the UK on the 12th of May, and was played between Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales and Gibraltar) The Netherlands and Canada. The Netherlands had a true all-star cast with three-time European Cup winner Sjaak Swart, European Golden Boot winner Kees Kist and World Cup finalists Dick Schoenaker and Wim Rijsbergen! The Scots, however, were the winners, taking the trophy back to Scotland. Take a look at the video below if you’d like to see how they did it:

Trivia: did you know these interesting facts about the World Cup?

Restaurants, cafés and even supermarkets see a big difference in their profits if their country makes it far into the competition, as people tend to get together to watch the games with friends or family. It never hurts to brush up on your World Cup knowledge to get some interesting facts to tell your fellow World Cup spectators!

We’ve put together some fun facts you can entertain your loved ones with during your next World Cup get-togethers!

Further reading:

Written by fernando at 04-07-2018