"I watch because soccer is the great leveller. The best player in the world is built like a hobbit."It's tempting, with FIFA, to explore the same Abbott-forced conundrum now faced by many Australians on either side of the political spectrum -- the ensuing battle to prove that a country is not its government, that a sport is not its governing body. There is truth in this, but it's complicated. If the situation in Brazil has taught us nothing else, it's that corruption and appreciation go hand-in-hand. Still, I have been there, night after night, unable to tear myself away from the television. I cannot bring myself to boycott the World Cup. But why? I watch because I have seen money bloat the club game to ludicrous proportions. Sums that would clothe, feed and educate the population of small nations are spent on players of various wattage, or on those with merely the potential to shine. But international soccer, ah, that is a different creature. Sure, there is a correlation between economic and footballing might, but somehow the field is more level -- it’s why you see Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to inspire a team of mere mortals, or England unable to translate the popularity and quality of its league to the international stage. I watch because soccer is the great leveller. The best player in the world is built like a hobbit. The person who has scored more international goals than anyone else -- and that player’s predecessor -- are both women. For all the skulduggery and shenanigans that transpire off the pitch, on it, skill and smarts always triumph over strength. I watch because I was young, once, and a long way from being talented, but every now and again I would try something spectacular and it would work, and I would walk on clouds for the rest of the day. That’s the beauty of the sport -- anything you see can be replicated, even if it’s just for a moment, which makes it all the sweeter to watch those who perform feats of genius as if they were turning on a tap. Still, this decision is a daily struggle. There are so many other things that are of so much more importance. For now, I cannot look away. I tell myself that the greed and exploitation exist because of the game’s quality, not the other way around. I’ll tell you how bad FIFA is, because that’s a start to making things better. And if you enjoy something, tell me; if Aussie rules is your game, or lacrosse, or curling, surely proselytising its merits is a better use of energy than huffing and puffing at other sports. It’s something the AFL has never quite understood, that the various codes can co-exist without cannibalising each other. Bernard Keane and Ann Coulter may be clinched in passionate agreement, but I’d much rather hear what he loves about rugby than what he hates about any other sport. I’ll give pretty much anything a try. Maybe even cricket. * Can't decide who's right, Bernard Keane or Hari Raj? Tune into the World Cup final at 5am on Monday, AEST, and make up your mind.
Countering Keane’s hissy fit: why soccer is great
So Bernard Keane thinks soccer is a 'silly sport', tainted by corruption. Writer Hari Raj reckons he's wrong, and sets out why the World Cup is worth watching (at 2am).