For the next month, the eyes of the world will be glued to the 2018 FIFA World Cup football bonanza that started in Russia yesterday. Fans’ hearts and minds will be with their favourite teams in a sporting tradition that has been known to inflame passions in traditional football fans and those jumping on the bandwagon alike.
Hosts, Russia, opened with Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow yesterday, while today’s action pits Egypt against Uruguay, Morocco vs Iran, as Portugal tussles it out with Spain.
It is the 21st FIFA World Cup, 88 years after the first tournament was held in Uruguay in 1930, and the first time that Russia is hosting the event.
Every four years when the World Cup returns on our sports calendars, it’s never business as usual — and not just for soccer fanatics — as the spill over effects of the season can be felt by non-soccer lovers just as well.
Only 32 nations are taking part in the tournament, and unfortunately, Rwanda is not one of them. This leaves Rwandan fans with the option of supporting any of the competing nations. Some will cheer for an African team because “I am African”, while others will support a particular team because their favourite footballer plays for it. Because of Mohamed Salah, for example, many people will support Egypt.
Many people will buy vuvuzelas, and popular World Cup joints will be awash with a rainbow of vuvuzela colours. Here are some of the things you are likely to notice;
This is the time to literally wear your heart on your sleeve. World Cup season is the time when football fans temporarily put away their Arsenal and Real Madrid and Rayon Sports replica jerseys in preference for their preferred national team at the tournament.
There are two options to work with; you could either go the old fashioned way and buy your favourite team’s replica jersey, complete with names such as ‘Mo Salah’ and ‘Christiano Ronaldo’ and Lionel Messi’, or you could go for a custom-made jersey bearing your own name. Whatever the case is, expect a surge in the number of mannequins dressed in replica World Cup jerseys at your local clothing store.
Replica jerseys are just one aspect of the fashion makeover that comes with the Coupe du monde. As the tournament progresses into the critical stages, expect to see diehard fans going the extra fashion mile — painting their faces or dyeing their hair in the colours of their favourite team. This option though is more popular with fans that actually go to the stadiums to watch the matches.
Imagine how many hundreds or even thousands of Rwandans would board a plane to watch the World Cup if Amavubi Stars were in the tournament.
Battle for the home TV
In some football-loving households, World Cup season is like the Christmas holidays — a time to now dust off that old and dead TV and radio set and attempt to give it a new lease of life. When the season is over, the said pieces of electronics are again left to fall into disrepair until the next cycle.
On the other hand, many other people will be setting out to buy new flat screen TV sets so they can catch the World Cup action at home.
Inevitably, almost all other television programmes will have to suffer, be it at home, in the office, public transport and in public spaces like bars, restaurants and hotels. This is not the time for such things like Telemundo and cooking shows, it is also not a good time to keep up with the Kardashians.
If you happen to use public transport, you will encounter passengers who impatiently demand that the chauffeur tunes in to the latest sports commentary as opposed to the news.
In the olden days, people betting on a match would simply agree on the amount to stake, make their predictions and sign before a friendly witness, then wait for the match to unfold. That is until sports betting companies came and streamlined the activity.
World Cup betting will be just a continuation of the already well-established sports betting industry, which in Rwanda’s case is mostly restricted to English Premiership Football.
Otherwise the social and fun oriented form of betting that pits friends staking on a game will also continue, especially in bars and other entertainment spots: the kind of betting where the loser buys a crate of beer to be shared in the group.
Bars and nightclubs
Almost every entertainment spot has some form of World Cup promotion going on at this time. Expect a surge in marketing clichés like “enjoy the FIFA World Cup with friends on large screens in our spacious garden”, and all sorts of discounts on drinks.
This may not be the best time for entertainers like musicians and DJs, as the attention of revellers now shifts from music to football.
Some establishments will go as far as hanging replica jerseys of some of the popular teams on their walls, to accentuate the mood. This will be complimented with posters of some of football’s greatest legends over the years —names like Pele and Maradona and Franz Beckenbauer and Zico.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and all of social media will be awash with World Cup messages and symbolism. Profile pictures will change to reflect the mood in the air —pictures of star players, coaches, ecstatic crowd moments, and those of the prestigious World Cup trophy will now reign supreme.
On a more annoying note, many people will try to outdo themselves in posting up-to-the-minute updates of the action.
World Cup babies
World Cup season is that time when some fathers now take an unusual interest in naming their new born babies, something that is usually reserved for the mother.
A few children born in the course of the tournament will inevitably end up with names of a football stadium or that of a star player.
If you blink, you miss
During any football season, you’ll notice a guy in a bar watching the match, and as if that is not enough, keenly listening to the same match on a small radio (or his phone) that is as close to his ear as possible. There is no way to explain this madness, but it can be assumed that when it comes to football, one can’t afford to miss anything. That said, now would be a good time to get into the portable radio vending business, as the people who subscribe to this ‘trend’ might need one.
This is ‘our’ team
There is no greater dedication than that of a football fan. The arguments that will definitely ensue when watching matches always feature statements like ‘we played well’ or ‘you guys can’t beat us’ — referring to the team one supports, say Brazil, even though they are not sure which continent Brazil is in.
How do you intend to watch World Cup?
I will watch the tournament away from home. I could watch the games at home but that won’t be possible because my sister loves watching drama programmes. I will enjoy the matches with friends because football is more interesting in noisy places.
Steven Nkotanyi, Student
I have already set DSTV reminders and I intend to watch my favourite teams Brazil and Senegal at home with my wife. The opening, however, I will watch at a hangout to get into the mood with other football fans.
Plaisir Muzogeye, Photographer
Some of my favourite teams have their matches at very inconvenient times. Luckily, the matches will be screened at work and so if I am not in the field, I will watch them from my workplace.
Susan Twizire, Marketing officer
I will not be able to watch the matches in bars like I did previously because I have a new-born baby that I need to attend to. I have asked my husband to watch the matches at home with me. I just hope he doesn’t invite his friends over because I’m not ready to cook for them.
Doreen Mutesi, Procurement officer