Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

AThe best covers the best of our genre at the World Cup. Football is a simple, dynamic game that provokes complex, basic emotions, crossing borders and cultures with impunity, making the cross-border, cross-cultural imperative of its global expression the greatest show on Earth. All people covet joy, community and identity – we can just call it love – and football is the most reliable conduit to humanity’s best facility.

So what makes up the perfect World Cup? For most of us, the answer is clear: our debut. For some, this means that the simple excitement of relentless football means that Qatar 2022 will – after all – be where it is forever, while the rest of us are trying to absorb the devastating compromises we are about to make.

Quick guide

Qatar: beyond football

To show

This is a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, The Guardian has been reporting on issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment and discriminatory laws against migrant workers. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond Football homepage for those who want to delve deeper into issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what’s going on in the field. Support our investigative journalism today.

Thank you for your feedback.

In a way, we underestimated: The World Cup provides a massive captive audience and is Earth’s main unifying force, so it should rightly be ruled by evil far more often. But we learn from the 1934 edition hosted by Mussolini’s Italy, as well as from Argentina ’78 and Russia 2018, that no matter how much we like tape, no amount should overshadow the use of football as a tool for abusive regimes for us. And what words to write—words that critics of various oil clubs can approve of, are more controversial than they seem.

Given that all power corrupts, it’s hard to judge how much state violence is state violence, so let’s draw a line on the grass: if the host country systematically and systematically commits violence against minorities, its own citizens, or those in other countries – this is surely what we hope to enjoy. it should affect our feelings towards football. Death, pain, and cruelty are not the perfect tournament.

Italy won their second World Cup in 1938, beating Hungary 4-2 in the final in Paris.
Italy won their second World Cup – what is thought to be the first classical tournament – beating Hungary 4-2 in the final in Paris in 1938. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

The 1938 edition in France is often considered the first classic and shows the extent of the possibilities when random landmasses hit the field. But many guests stayed home while others were left out, so the quality and variety needed for an ideal iteration wasn’t available.

After leaving for the war, the 1950 World Cup visited Brazil; The international cooperation needed to defeat the Axis powers – somehow – dilutes prejudices and increases participation even though African countries are not. Naturally, the imperial overtones continued – Stanley Rous, The Football Association secretary realized that the decline of the empire meant the decline of influence, so participation helped maintain some control – but the lesson of rallying was taken to celebrate nonetheless.

After Mussolini’s overthrow, Ottorino Barassi, commissioner of the Italian Football Federation, worried that the Nazis would melt the trophy to aid the war effort. So she carried him home from the bank, and when duly visited the shoebox under his bed was somehow overlooked, Jules Rimet remained there until the truce – a fine thread but also a story that taught us what our perfect World Cup entails. off-site folklore and mythology.

Football provided similarly. In Miracle of Turf, first England lost to the USA, then Uruguay defeated Brazil to become the champion. maracanazoThe agony of Maracanã – the homeowner’s national horror, which determines the importance of the location and football culture alike. Such events are important not only because they are breathtaking, but also because they form part of an empowering, enveloping structure; a shared history with a common language that transcends differences.

Official poster of the 1950 tournament in Brazil
Official poster of the 1950 tournament in Brazil. Photo: Alamy

What 1950 also showed us was that form matters. Because Brazil was so large, the teams were divided into groups and the winners formed another group in which the winner was victorious. The lesson of never doing that again was learned but not fully learned – similar mistakes were made in 1974, 1978 and 1982 – but it has since been agreed that ideal competition entails the immediate danger of knockout football.

Four years later, in 1954, the world gathered in Switzerland, which included the previously banned West Germany. And the first televised competition did not disappoint the global community he helped create; A series of exciting games are breaking goal records and still standing. But most importantly, the later stages featured astonishing drama and epic encounters of unmatched quality.

The quarterfinals were glorified with the Battle of Berne, where Hungary revolutionized the way football is played and debated, where Brazil eliminated in brutal tension, and the teams regrouped in the locker rooms for a good, honest, old-fashioned feud. Then in the semi-finals they beat Uruguay in a title match, and in the final the world’s best player Ferenc Puskas returned from injury and scored six minutes later as Hungary took a 2-0 lead in eight. But West Germany gained the power to recoil the epoch-making shock and tragedy of a missed historical side, and a troubled nation united in collective enthusiasm was instantly blessed in human history. While it wasn’t perfect, it was close.

Ferenc Puskas and Mighty Magyars lost to West Germany in 1954.
Ferenc Puskas and the Mighty Hungarians Lost to West Germany at the Miracle of Berne in 1954. Photo: AP

If 1954 was partly about an icon not doing what it was supposed to do, 1958 was about the birth of someone who did all this and more. Pelé dominated the tournament and taught us that the perfect World Cup needs an icon – ideally an indisputable immortal – and if it embodies youth forever, all the better.

Brazil’s win also showed us that surprises are good because we love a story, but also that we are looking for a definitive answer to the question of which is the best team in the world. Ultimately, 1954 left it in the air, and while 1958 did the opposite, the evidence shouldn’t be as conclusive as a 5-2 final blast.

Pele being lifted into the air after the final in 1970
Pele took to the air after the final in 1970 – the Brazilian team beat Italy 4-1 in a one-sided affair, but their football was brilliant. Photo: AP

Or should it? After tough rivalries in 1962 and 1966, Brazil’s 4-1 victory over Italy in 1970 made football so brilliant that the margin of victory didn’t matter, talent that filled success with a primal, sexual love. It reminds us that our quintessential competition isn’t just about the present, it’s about continuity; the poignant certainty that we are seeing the pinnacle of human capacity, not only in sport but also in art; the incomparable, almost unbearable feeling of proximity to greatness; join the great.

Similarly, in 1974 Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff elevated the game to a different intellectual plane. 1970 was based on a unique collection of individuals, although it showed the extent of the possible for great musicians to express themselves in concert. The Dutch game Total Football, on the other hand, showcased a new style of play whose inspiration took the game forward and continued for generations – another hallmark of the excellent World Cup.

The ’80s competitions didn’t do that, but they reinforced the lesson that a key aspect of any competition was the endless instant deathmatch. Italy 3-2 Brazil and West Germany 3-3 France from 1982, Brazil 1-1 France and Argentina 2-1 with England from 1986 Not only the most exciting, but also the most controversial clashes, drowning us in moral debates style v essence, purpose vs. means, sports vs. politics, the world consumed and fascinated by extreme emotions and thoughts.

Diego Maradona collect against England in the 1986 quarter-finals
Diego Maradona displayed mind-blowing genius against England in the 1986 quarter-finals. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

And that’s before we take on Diego Maradona, whose mind-blowing genius and charisma taught us what it’s like to watch the best player in the world dominate the world and become king of the world. But Mexico 86 was also important because Morocco was there as it became the first African country to qualify for knockouts before Italia 90, which reached the last eight in Italia 90. Finally, the World Cup was truly La Coupe de Monde, the world’s cup, and the wild atmosphere of Italy – especially when compared to the USA 94 – makes it clear that our excellent competition must be played in a country that is perfect for football.

Which brings us back to Qatar 2022: an oppressive regime but not a football country, home to no team likely to do anything new, the greatest team of all time and the greatest player of all time at its peak. While there’s still hope for legendary knockout matches, scuffle or 73 and folkloric peripherals, it’s up to us what this contest brings to our conversation. The perfect World Cup is an illusion, and so is the perfect world, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up our quest for them. Instead, if we are enjoying both, we must take personal responsibility for both by infusing the glory of one into the other – all this joy, all this community, all this identity and all this love – because otherwise, what in the world are we?