To the victor goes the umbrella

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

    The World Cup 2018 came to an end on Sunday in a brief closing ceremony on a rain-soaked pitch, with a triumphant France.

    "The gods of weather, the gods of narrative, and the gods of football smiled on us," says David Goldblatt, host of Game of Our Lives podcast. "Best of all, it ended with the most extraordinary thunderstorm that soaked the dignitaries to their skin."

    Les Blues beat a relentless Croatia 4-2, sealing a second World Cup trophy for the country - and scoring the most goals in a 90-minute final since Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in 1958.

    "It was a magnificent spectacle," says co-host Tony Karon. "It was a chaotic game, not only in the post-match ceremonies, which were the most bizarre spectacle I've ever seen in world football, but on the pitch itself."

    In the season two finale of Game of Our Lives, Goldblatt, Karon, and writer Kanishk Tharoor, reflect on this summer's tournament in Russia. They discuss the surreal, the heartbreaking, and the totally absurd, from the invasion of the pitch by political protest group Pussy Riot to the apparent lack of umbrellas available during the closing ceremony.

    Read an excerpt from the conversation below, and listen to the full episode in the player above. Then, let us know what you think of the show in a post-World Cup Game of Our Lives survey.

    David Goldblatt: Russia is not the only country whose reputation both on and off the pitch has been transformed and shaped by this World Cup. Tony, I wanted to ask you, how are you feeling about the status of African football at the end of this World Cup?

    Tony Karon: I guess the hard results would suggest that one should feel depressed or despondent but you know what, we don't think that way. I don't think Africa thinks that way. I was having a fantastic conversation this very day with a Congolese guy on the streets of Cape Town who parks cars and it was really, you know, I was trying to get, who does he support at the World Cup? Because you know obviously Congo is not there and I'm assuming his number one would be Senegal. And he's like no, number one: Belgium, number two: Senegal. He doesn't support France at all - and France has got four Congolese players. But, you know, Africa has always, not only in football, but perhaps more generally, been a little sceptical of the nation-state which is bequeathed by colonialism in Africa as the foundation of somebody's identity. I mean, those things obviously have a place, but they're not absolutely definitive. So, I think Africa was very excited by France. By this French team with which many people could identify because, you know, Africa is in a state of migration. Not only from Africa to Europe but even within Africa. Cape Town has thousands of people who are Somali, who are Congolese, who are from Senegal, etc. So, the sense of who we are is a little more complex than the nation states and there's plenty of African football represented at the very top of the game.

    Goldblatt: Doesn't look like Asia is really competing either, Kanishk. I mean with the exception of Japan making it through to the Round of 16. How do you read that? And how do you read that as an indicator of football more widely in the continent?

    Kanishk Tharoor: I thought Iran played very well. I mean they're a very competent, organised team. They're quite robust. They were drawn into an incredibly difficult group in which they didn't do too badly. South Korea, we know, beat Germany in quite a memorable game. And Japan, oh gosh, I really find that this Japanese team has so much charisma. And for me, the moment in the World Cup that was, at once, I think one of the greatest sporting moments, I think the greatest goal, for me, was was both those things as well as being the moment of greatest heartbreak and that is Belgium's exquisite phenomenal third - last-minute third goal against Japan to recover from being down 2-0. To win 3-2 in the last minute. And that was the best goal of the tournament. And it just hit me, it was such a sucker punch. Because I, you know, fully recognising that Japan have a lot of imperial history and colonial angst that they've generated, as well, they were the one Asian team that had survived into the knockout phase. And they had played brilliantly against Belgium; Belgium, who I think are also a wonderful team to watch. And so, it was one of those moments where this kind of immense possibility seemed to be opening up before you, and then it sort of slams shut. And reality sinks in that there's no way an Asian team is going to win. That was hard to deal with. At the same time, I couldn't begrudge that last goal, and as we've discussed before, the beautiful movement of Lukaku.

    Goldblatt: Tony what was your what was your favourite goal? You can't have that one.

    Karon: You have to choose your best goals on the basis of what they mean. So, the goal, for me, that had the most meaning was Chucky Lozano's winner against Germany. I mean that was the earthquake. The earthquake, right? Mexico City earthquake. That was just fantastic. And I never felt as good throughout the rest of the tournament as I felt in that moment of absolute joy. Goals that are like, where the hell did that come from? Cheryshev's goal against Croatia. That was one of the most beautiful goals of the tournament scored in a team that did not play beautiful football at all. And also, in terms of the virtues of the game, the kind of old pro - keeping your head when everybody around you is losing theirs, I have to say that Mandzukic goal against England was pretty special, too. A goal that made a difference and a goal that was a product of keeping your head.

    Raja Shah: Fighting words.

    Tharoor: It made me happy too.

    Goldblatt: Well, you'll forgive me if my favourite goal was Eric Dier's penalty to finally, finally, finally win a penalty shoot-out. My own personal greatest pleasure, as you know, a kind of trainspotter in this department, is that, here in Britain - but I would actually say everywhere that I have read the press around the world - this has been the most socially and politically conscious World Cup. The kind of duel conversation that's going on about football and all of the other issues that it speaks to is magnified many times over. I mean, it was extraordinary, you know, in the run-up to the World Cup final itself to hear a seven-minute detailed conversation on issues of corruption and legal process in Croatian football and how this might affect Luka Modric's performance at the same time to hear Gary Neville live on television discussing Brexit in the context of the World Cup. I mean, you know, we've moved a long way, people! This is an extraordinary kind of shift in the way that the game is being consumed and discussed.

    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 News


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