Three Lions and a funeral

Game of Our Lives, the football podcast from Al Jazeera, is covering the goals, triumphs, tragedies, and politics of the 2018 World Cup.

    Sixty-two games down. Two to go.

    The final matches of this summer's World Cup take place this weekend in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. First, Belgium and England will battle it out for third place on Saturday, and on Sunday, France and Croatia will compete for the trophy.

    "France are the favourites, but we shouldn't forget about the incredible tournament that Croatia have had so far," says Kanishk Tharoor, guest and editor of the Game of Our Lives podcast. "There's a kind of determination and steel and, as we said before, craft and guard to this Croatian team that cannot be discounted."

    It's been a whirlwind of a tournament thus far, with a number of heavy hitters going out in the knockouts, and England's unexpected advance to the semi-finals, where they lost 2-1 to Croatia. 

    Despite his cautiously high hopes for The Three Lions in the last episode of Game of Our Lives, host David Goldblatt isn't devastated by the outcome of the match.

    "I don't feel like I've wasted my time watching England. I feel like, for the first time really in a quarter of a century, it was an absolute joy," says Goldblatt.

    Plus, he says, his support is with France now.

    "I love it that they're another diverse team that represents the best of the consequences of migration in Europe," says Goldblatt.

    In the latest episode of Game of Our Lives, Goldblatt and team look back on the semi-finals and preview the last matches of the tournament. Plus, Goldblatt speaks with journalist Marcela Mora y Araujo about the domination of European teams in the World Cup, the influence of South American play on the global pitch, and the region's export of football talent.

    Read an excerpt from the conversation between David Goldblatt and Marcela Mora y Araujo below, and listen to the full episode in the player above.

    Goldblatt: We've reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and they're all from Europe. How is South America reading this World Cup and the state of play of global football just at the moment?

    Mora y Araujo: I think it's really interesting. I mean, there's two main currents of thought. One is: Is this evidence that some kind of massive inequality has been maximised? Uruguay's manager, Tabarez, when he was asked the same thing, he said there's a limit to how much we can compete equal to equal, just look at the resources, it's incredible that we've got this far. And so that kind of inequality - 

    Goldblatt: But when he says "resources," Marcela, what kind of things is he talking about? He's talking about what's available for youth development? Or medical science? Where do you think those inequalities are really biting? If they are.

    Mora y Araujo: I don't want to put words into Tabarez's mouth. He just left it at that; infrastructure and resources. But I think there's a lot to be said for that. I mean, you asked me about South America specifically, but what I noticed and I found particularly frustrating was that there were no non-European teams involved. And that's, I think, really sad - and the demise of the World Cup as we know it in a way. Because the whole point is that it's a festival of world football. So, if only Europe, who already have more participating nations, are gonna go through, then it's just the Euros again with guests in the early stages. I really love to explore that idea of inequality because I think it's fundamental to the world at the moment. But, there's another current of thought which I want to mention because it's funny.

    Goldblatt: What's that?

    Mora y Araujo: And that's that, in fact, South America are still in it because of Pochettino's influence on the English team. Africa is still in it because of the French players. And just that there's a kind of new order to the world where the nationalities are defined in a different way - and the football itself.

    Goldblatt: I think there's a lot to be said for that. I mean, what Europe is these days is not the Europe of 20 or 50 years ago. I read a lot of stuff where people are kind of aligning themselves or taking sort of pleasure or "naches", as we say in Yiddish, from the presence of Afro French and Afro Belgian players, as well as of course Pochettino. The Tottenham Hotspur supporters are particularly enjoying the influence of Pochettino. I believe nine Tottenham players amongst the four semifinalists.

    Mora y Araujo: That's right. And not just Tottenham players but also his entire legacy, because he's been a kind of quiet pioneer of developing and nurturing, rather than buying expensive. And so, it's not just the current Spurs players but the years of a particular orientation. You can just see from the English players that their relationship with the ball, if you like, is completely un-English. Even if their game is actually quite - it's not even England - the whole World Cup has been a much more physical and set piece and organised and heavily defended World Cup than the flair and skill of Latin American dribblers of yesteryear. But, I think it's not just now that this has happened. I think it's a few years of the influx of "otherness" into English football, and European football. But what is interesting and perhaps something that we need to address as societies looking forward, is that we haven't dried up the football of other places outside Europe. So, the rhetoric is: Rich Europe has enriched itself more by importing all our talents, and the exporting nations have been left with nothing. And that is something that we need to really look towards because I think it's to the detriment of the World Cup and of football generally that it just becomes a Euro Cup halfway through the tournament.

    Listen to the full episode in the player above, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

    You can also listen on the Game of Our Lives Facebook. Follow the show on Twitter @gameofourlives

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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