Now that the final ball has been kicked at the 2018 World Cup (congratulations France, well deserved), the euphoria and then inevitable pain that comes from supporting England at a major tournament will begin to fade. Seeing as I can’t celebrate Kane and the boys bringing the trophy home, I thought I would look at some of the other inspiring stories from this World Cup that are worth celebrating instead.
- Russia unknowingly tackles homophobia
Before the tournament kicked-off, Paddy Power announced their anti-homophobia campaign ‘Rainbow Russians’ which saw them pledge £10,000 to LGBT+ charities for every Russian goal scored. The campaign got off to a great start as Russia put goals galore past Saudi in the opening match, and after Russia’s surprise run through to the quarters, Paddy Power confirmed that they have raised £170,000 for LGBT+ charities (£110,000 as a consequence of Russian goals and a further £50,000 as Paddy Power donations). Good work Russia.
- Carbon offsetting
As ever carbon emissions are a topic high on the hit list; and no, I’m not talking about the predicted beer shortages that threatened to ruin the tournament. Early estimates suggest that this World Cup emitted 20% less CO2than four years ago. However, FIFA have gone further, and for the first time offered free carbon offsets to every ticket holder in its mission to align with the Paris Climate Agreement. For each ticket holder signing up, FIFA pledged to offset 2.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the estimated emissions of an average ticket holder travelling to Russia from abroad. Although there have been questions around the validity and scale of the scheme, it is something that can be built on in 2022. Nice touch FIFA.
- Celebration of migration
In this post (or mid-Brexit) phase we find ourselves in, immigration is a topic top of mind for many, often with negative connotations. However, this World Cup may have been the most multicultural World Cup we have seen yet. England’s squad was the most ethnically diverse squad to represent the three lions on the world stage, with 47.8% of the English squad being sons of immigrants, including 6 of England’s starting eleven. In the final alone, diversity was a key factor in both squads with 78% of the French squad coming from migrant backgrounds and 15% of the Croatia squad being born outside of Croatia – something that didn’t stop the overwhelming support for both teams. This truly was a multicultural World Cup.
- Japan shows the world how it’s done
After every one of Japan’s four games, including their unfortunate and gut-wrenching exit at the hands of Belgium in the last-16, Japan’s fans produced bin bags from their pockets and proceeded to tidy their section of the stadium. The craze seemed to spread fast with other fans getting involved from Panama, Colombia and Senegal. This politeness was not just contained to the fans, but after each game the Japanese team cleaned their changing room until it was spotless, leaving nothing but a thank you note in Russian. Pure class Japan.
- Football team unites the world
During the course of this World Cup there was one football team that showed courage, togetherness and desire way beyond their years, and in the process garnered the attention of the globe. Unless you yourself have been living in a cave, you will have heard that the Wild Boars football team of Northern Thailand were trapped in a water-logged cave for 18 days whilst an international rescue effort battled Monsoon rains, mud and potential depleting oxygen levels to get them out safely. The international rescue was globalisation at its best, bringing together military and civilian divers from 8 different nationalities to help the 12 boys and their coach. The true definition of team spirit.
The chances are your team didn’t win the 2018 World Cup, or probably the office sweepstake either, but there are still plenty of reasons to smile about the last 4 weeks of football. The sport has the power to change lives, drive trends, dictate the mood of a nation, highlight the best of humanity and bring us all together. And remember, football is coming home. Just not this year.