Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
Read earlier columns
Hoping for a new start
11 September 2001 changed the world. It changed my
life. It changed all our lives. It changed football,
and it changed the World Cup. Forever.
This should not be the place to go into the ongoing
ramifications of the terrorist acts, and yet strangely
a website about the World Cup cannot really focus on
anything else. What is this site about? The World
Cup is the biggest and most significant cultural,
political and sporting event in the world, and this
site is about reporting it in detail. So how can we
ignore what happened in the United States less than a
Looking back to the start of September is now like
staring at another planet. The fact that England beat
Germany in a game of football dominated the news, and
I was writing about how we had to wait for future
events to unfold before we would see the significance
of that victory. I imagined that we would have to
wait years to be able to understand what the game
meant. In reality it took less than two weeks.
England versus Germany will now mean for me a time
when I knew it was relatively safe to watch football;
when I did not watch a football match wondering if the
next time an aeroplane flew over the stadium it would
be crashed into it.
Now I am not trying to be offensive or sensationalist
here. There now must be a real threat to the security
of globally televised events like the World Cup.
Think about the figures for a moment. The 2002 World
Cup final will attract a television audience of around
3 billion people. Three thousand million people will
be watching; three thousand million pairs of eyes will
be staring at Coca-Cola and Philips advertisements;
three thousand million people is the perfect audience
for terrorists seeking an image that will burn into
our retinas and consciousnesses like those planes
crashing into the World Trade Center did.
And don't say such a thing won't or can't happen.
September 11 changed all that remember.
Football is I think far too complacent about such
things. FIFA is more than happy about the way its
product is the sporting equivalent of McDonalds or
Coca-Cola in our globalised world, but like these
multinational companies it must take responsibility
for the image it is selling. While statements linking
the September 11 attacks to American cultural
imperialism are at least fundamentally flawed (and
probably plain wrong), the idea that people were so
angry with all things American that they wanted to
strike at its heart have to be taken seriously. Now I
am not suggesting for a second that because the World
Cup is surrounded by Budweiser and McDonalds signs it
is going to be attacked by terrorists. But by so
actively linking up with such companies FIFA is
happily buying into a brand image, and more
importantly, is selling its own brand to those
companies and us. Now I don't think it takes a
massive stretch of the imagination to start to link
the activities of FIFA with the activities of the
multinationals that sponsor it so richly. And
regardless of whether those activities encourage
people to commit mass murder (which I believe they
don't), there is undoubted evidence that some of those
activities are exploitative and need to be monitored
much more closely.
FIFA has an opportunity to move away from such
companies and use its unique position to help bring
understanding amongst different people. Joao
Havelange was fond of telling people who interviewed
him how powerful he was, and how his organisation had
more members that the United Nations. Why therefore
is FIFA not being more active in using the real power
it has? Japan/Korea 2002 could be a new dawn for
football. It could be one where our World Cup is
stripped of the advertising sideshow it has become and
becomes the one event that truly unifies all races and
My favourite memory of France 98 is the Iran-USA
match. At the time I was ecstatic that Iran had
beaten the USA, and loved seeing the most powerful
country in the world beaten by one of its biggest
enemies. But looking back, I now see that the result
was utterly redundant. It was the occasion that needs
to be celebrated. Where else in the world would 22
high profile Americans and Iranians be meeting in
celebration and friendship, while the rest of the
planet watched? This is the power the World Cup has,
and this is the reason why the Austrian footballers
who are refusing to travel to Israel this weekend are
wrong. It has nothing to do with them being
unpatriotic or cowards, because in a way they are
correct - if they are being expected to play a game of
football so FIFA can sell advertising they simply
should not play. And here is in essence what FIFA do
wrong on a daily basis - instead of encouraging the
Austrian squad to travel to show that football bridges
the gap between nations, they come across as being
more worried about TV companies losing income.
This I think is the only way football should continue
after the attacks. On that horrible day, Liverpool
(the team I have been obsessed with since I was six)
were playing their first European Cup match since
1985. The game should not have been played. I would
like to be able to say I had no interest in the
result, but I can't. Almost without thinking, I found
myself turning on Teletext at 8pm to find out the
latest score even though since I had first found out
about the attacks I had been watching any reports I
could find, and had no intention of watching the game.
In the days after I virtually ignored football, as
most of us did I suppose. But as some sort of
'normality' returns my thoughts have turned back to
the game. One of the things I have noticed is just
how little I missed the type of football I was
'missing'. If anything The Champions League is even
more turned over to its multinational sponsors than
the World Cup. But being a Liverpool fan, one thing I
know is that football needs to go on, like it did
after Heysel and Hillsborough.
I am not na´ve enough to think that FIFA will read
this article, and fear that the opportunity football
has to help heal the enormous scars left after the
attacks will again be wasted, but just maybe if enough
people who love the World Cup start to think about
what it really represents, then we can take it back,
and use it properly.
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information
on who keeps this site available.