World Cup was great, but far from perfect

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

For complete World Cup 2014 coverage visit Yahoo Sports and follow @YahooSoccer

RIO DE JANEIRO – The World Cup is everything, or at least it feels like it to enough people for those few heady weeks each four years, that the withdrawal symptoms start to bite almost as soon as the final kick is delivered.

So it will be again this time, at the final point of a tournament that taught us all that is great about soccer's biggest showpiece and all that isn't, blended into one glorious, intoxicating, imperfect mixture.

Four years is a long time and yes, it is a painful wait, and when Mario Goetze struck his winning goal for Germany against Argentina on Sunday night it brought the curtain down on a feast of soccer that deserves to be missed – a high-scoring, free-flowing, electrifying month of magic and madness.

Those coming years before the tournament reaches Russia in 2018 will seem interminable to some, so far away that it is hard to look ahead to it with any real clarity.

Germany's players celebrate with fans after the final World Cup match. (AP)
Germany's players celebrate with fans after the final World Cup match. (AP)

Instead, any grandiose occasion such as this should be met with reflection, particularly from those in soccer's peculiar corridors of power – the chosen few who can actually make a difference to those who matter.

No FIFA, that is not your corporate bedfellows and junketing sponsorship pals. It is the fans, the people who even more than the beautifully skilled individuals and, on this occasion, a marvelously compiled team that won it all, light up the World Cup.

The color of this tournament came partly from Brazil, a wonderful country with tragically real problems and whose citizens wasted no chance to tell president Dilma Rousseff exactly what it thought of her with a chorus of boos at the closing ceremony.

Yet for all the spectacular scenery of Sugarloaf and the Redeemer, the majestic mystery of Amazonian cities Cuiaba and Manaus, the beachside loveliness of Natal and Fortaleza, the heartbeat of the World Cup came as always from those who ventured from far and wide to sample a taste of soccer's masterpiece.

It is a pilgrimage of sorts for tens of thousands from every corner of the globe, and it is one that is unrewarded and abused. Scandalously inflated prices for hotels and flights, and an unwieldy and overly complex ticketing system provide long-suffering fans with a trifecta of misery.

FIFA can't tell companies what to charge, however greedy, but there are real things they could do to the construction of this event, but blindly choose not to. Again, at this World Cup, no team played more than one group game in the same venue. There were 12 stadiums, dotted all around an enormous country with overstretched local airports.

Fans had flights rescheduled at a moment's notice and missed games because of it. Thousands spent too much time in airports and not enough seeing the jewels of this remarkable land.

Wouldn't 10 cities have been fine? Would it be so terrible to have each group split between two relatively close venues to minimize the travel requirement for teams and paying travelers?

No, that would take too much sense.

Even then, even with it all stacked against them – with tickets stockpiled by touts who know the system and the cheapest flights hoarded by travel companies – they still came in their droves.

They still came with smiles and joy and painted their faces and got loud and thought it all worth it even when, in every case except one, they went home on the back of defeat.

They will always come, no matter what the price and how great the distance and how grueling the schedule and how complicated the ticketing process and how great the inconvenience of it all.

The global migration to a World Cup brings money that will always be there for the taking, ripe to be plucked effortlessly. The visiting masses are the easiest target in the world because they give their money willingly and don't gripe about it.

But that doesn't make it right.

It is time for a change, not a drastic one but enough to make a difference. Streamline the system. Cut down the travel. Simplify the process.

This is a time to remember that the World Cup belongs to every fan. It will never be perfect because this is not a perfect game, but it can be better, fairer, cheaper and more rewarding to those who give so much.

It is time for the World Cup to become the world's cup again; that would be the greatest triumph of all.

 

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