Desperately seeking World Cup magic
Just about a month to go until the wildly anticipated FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa.
For so many fans it promises deliverance from the ordinary, even gossipy progression, of professional soccer or football or whatever it is you want to call it.
It will be a welcome break from the scandals involving French star Franck Ribery and the fretting over injuries to a litany of players such as Spanish striker Fernando Torres. This is not to mention the consternation over whether or not England manager Fabio Capello will allow his team's wives and girlfriends (WAGS) to accompany the team overseas.
No, this summer, the World Cup will provide some much needed magic and passion.
It's happened throughout the tournament's history and has every chance of unfolding for the first time on African soil where the vast majority of people in a country still wrestling with economic and racial issues, are devoted to the sport.
In the past there's been Diego Maradona and The Hand of God goal, which sank in England in 1986. Long before Zinedine Zidane was vilified for a head butt against Italy, he led France to an improbable World Cup victory at home by scoring two goals against Brazil. Zidane became an instant national hero, his image projected on the Arc de Triomphe.
Lesser known is the greatest David and Goliath story in World Cup history.
In the Brazilian gathering of 1950 a bunch of part-time players from the United States knocked off England, the acknowledged "Kings of Football," and scuttled coronation plans.
"Sometimes the better team loses," figured 83-year-old midfielder Walter Bahr as he remembered the 1-0 shocker conjured up by a collection of dishwashers, postal workers and teachers.
"I always felt that was one of the top things about sports. You can't pick the winner before hand you have to play the game."
It's the lure of what many call the greatest tournament of all. Not everything is scripted and anything can happen when national pride and sport collide on the global stage.
"Yes, it's my only claim to fame," Bahr chuckled. "People think I was a great player. I was just like everybody else...but I was a World Cup player!"
Thankfully, only the players can deliver the magic once the World Cup begins.
About the Author
Scott Russell brings vast experience, passion and knowledge to his role as host of CBC's Sports Weekend and Major League Soccer on CBC. A 20-year CBC Sports veteran, Russell has covered nine Olympic Games and last year co-hosted Olympic Morning for Beijing 2008: The Olympic Games. The Gemini-Award winning broadcaster and acclaimed author has also worked as a host and rinkside reporter on Hockey Night in Canada and has covered triathlon, gymnastics, rugby, cross-country skiing and biathlon at several Olympic Games, Pan Am Games and Commonwealth Games.