Kicking off the 2014 FIFA World Cup with AEGEE

32 national teams from different nations are arriving in Brazil these days, ready to play football in the samba loving country. The AEGEEan – AEGEE’s Online Magazine together with the Sports Working Group (SWG) is anxiously awaiting the tournaments to commence on June 12th  and have created an online initiative to gather AEGEE members interested in the World Cup.

Picture courtesy of Esporte Clube Pelotas, Flickr.

For AEGEEans who would like to follow the World Cup together, the SWG and The AEGEEan have created a Facebook group for football interested AEGEEans. Next to this, they organise a competition to predict the outcome of the matches, the football player that makes the most goals during the tournament and more. A fun way of gathering AEGEEans once again while following an international sport event together. The winner will receive his/her prize during Autumn Agora Cagliari. The participants of the competition get points according to how succesfully they guess who wins the matches. The deadline to be part of the whole competition is tonight at 20.00 CET before the opening match between Brazil and Croatia kicks off. Latecomers will also be able to predict the following games the deadline is simply at midnight CET the day before the match is played.

Brazil, Italy, Germany, Uruguay, Argentina, England, France and Spain. All very large countries who have in common that they have all previously won the FIFA World Cup, which will take place for the 20th time this month in Brazil. The host nation is also the only team that has participated in all the former nineteen editions of the tournament.

Spain, the reigning champion, also holds the title of the two previous EURO in 2008 and 2012, so all eyes are on the stars from Spain to see if they can defend their title. 48 games group stage games and 15 knock-out games will be held all over Brazil from June 12th until July 13th 2014.

Regarding the teams who will make it far the bookmakers predict Brazil to win the whole thing, which – due to political unrest also – could be very much needed for the country in order to also celebrate and have a positive aspect on the tournament being hosted in their country. Besides Brazil “bookies” also eye countries like Germany, Argentina and Spain as favorites to reach the final that will be played at the Maracana stadium.

The Maracana stadium where the final will take place
Picture courtesy of Leandro’s World Tour, Flickr

Ozgun Kaplama, the speaker of the Sports Working Group, agrees that Brazil is the favorite to win, but also points out that the excitement of “anything can happen” makes the World Cup very interesting. The Network section Editor of The AEGEEan, Svenja van der Tol, also believes that Brazil will win, but is not as football interested as Ozgun. She is more the type of person that likes following the international tournaments as the EURO and the World Cup. She even might be a bit like the typical watcher kindly disturbing the football fanatics during games as she tells The AEGEEan that she tends to talk over the commentators. For this reason she is happy that there is the initiative of The AEGEEans following the World Cup together on Facebook, because this means she will be free to talk during and after the games. When asked if she will contribute to the initiative she responds with eager. Yes! I always bet on the European and World Cup and managed to score a place in the top 5 until now each time. Even when I predicted Rumania to win (really, I didn’t know anything about soccer and just went with the country I liked), I got third place and won money. Last European Cup I picked Spain, partly because red is my favorite color, and I ended up winning 200 euro because I was the only one trusting Torres to make a goal. I guess me and soccer betting is a combination of luck, good bets on match results and a huge lack of any soccer knowledge.”

Picture courtesy of JeepersMedia, Flickr

Miguel Gallardo from the Comité Directeur is also less interested in football as he is usually more keen on rugby, and says he most likely will not watch many matches, but follow it while listening to it or when meeting with friends. He is however delighted about the initiative of The AEGEEan and the SWG. “It is a great initiative that has worked really well before with Eurovision, European Parlament elections and even partially with the Olympics. Given the great deal of attention this will receive, I am sure that the discussions will be lively. I only hope we can keep nationalistic views aside!”

The People section Editor Erika Bettin tells The AEGEEan that her heart beats tricolor and she will be following the Italian team close, especially since she works at her radio station as a commenter during the Italian matches. In general too she won’t miss any matches “The tournament phase is quite impredictable. You can barely go through and then win the whole thing. I’m waiting for the round with 16 teams to start feeling the pressure. During the tournament I can’t wait for Italy – England and… Ok, let be honest here. I won’t loose a single match. I’m the type of person  who melts in front of the tv with a cold beer for one month. “

Another sport enthusiast is Armenak Minasyants, who is the Policy Officer for European Neighbourhood Policy and ecstatic about following the World Cup with fellow AEGEEans “It is so inspiring! We really need to pay much attention to such non-formal online stuff. This type of initiatives are useful, as we share our comments, posts, perspectives and simply boost the dialogue among the AEGEEans who may have never ever even met up. Surely it’s also a very good possibility to network between the locals.”

Picture courtesy of por .myke, Flickr

Both Miguel and Armenak will be following Belgium closely during the tournament, emphasizing the joy of how incredibly football can unite the Belgians. Armenak says “My dark horse and dream champion is Belgium. The multicultural Belgian team brings a real message to the WC2014 and everyone watching it. The Belgian team unifies players with so diverse cultural, religious and historical backgrounds. Though the players have these diverse backgrounds, they clearly understand that they may unify the whole Belgium under the tricolor. They are proving with their performances a historical desire to stand united and struggle for reaching the top of the iceberg. In the times when Europe was shattered by the far right party’s successes in the EP Elections and with the rising tensions and debates over the migration issues – the Belgian football team’s victory will be the real victory of multiculturalism in Europe.”

Moving on with the prediction, an interesting fact about the tournament is that the players who most likely will also be in Brazil and who scored the most goals in the pre-stage for the World Cup are Luis Suarez of Uruguay (11 goals) Robin van Persie of Holland (11), Edin Dzeko of Bosnia-Herzegovina (10), Oribe Peralta of Mexico (10) and Leo Messi of Argentina (10). Another interesting fact about Bosnia-Herzegovina is that it is the first time that they will be part of the largest football event in the world as an independent nation.

Graffiti protests on the streets of Brazil ahead of the World Cup
Picture courtesy of Ben Tavener, Flickr

The World Cup is not only about football. As many probably have heard there are protests happening in the street due to the Brazilian population being dissatisfied with the excessive spending of the public money on the World Cup and the Olympic Games that will take place in 2016 in Rio. Svenja has been to Brazil and for this reason has mixed feeling about the tournament starting June 12th: Ever since I went to Brazil I fell in love with the country, so I don’t mind getting to see more of it (even if it’s just the soccer fields), but I have my doubts about the impact it will have on the country itself. I have a lot of friends in Brazil, who have both negative and positive opinions, so it’s hard to figure out what the truth is. Every story has two sides in the end, but I do hope it will have a positive influence on the country after all.”

Although the World Cup is surrounded by a lot of negative press, there are also positive sides to the tournament. The World Cup also addresses important issues and is thus affected by international politics. A project started at the 2006 World Cup by FIFA is named “Football for the Planet”, and for the tournament that kicks off in a few days FIFA and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee (LOC) have promised to implement projects addressing important areas of water, waste, energy, procurement, climate change and transportation.  Specifically for the tournament, FIFA and the LOC have been focusing on estimating the carbon footprint of the tournament and developing measures to avoid, reduce and offset its emissions. Although it has claimed that the Brazilian government does not complete the promises they have made, they created an important project to have green stadiums, give certified training courses on sustainable management for stadium operators, have an effective waste management in the stadiums and other tournament related venues according to regulations and to have a successful use of recycling during the tournament by working together with local cooperatives.

The trophy that the winning team of the 2014 FIFA World Cup will take home.
Picture courtesy of Warrenski, Flickr

The FIFA 2014 World Cup is interesting on many levels and Armenak helps point out in particular outstanding matches. “In the group stage the most entertaining matches would be in Group D, which includes Italy, Uruguay, England and Costa Rica. I guess all the matches in this group would be thrilling and atomic, but England vs. Italy match would be very specific, as these two teams have quite complicated relationship over the past years. There are also some more much anticipated matches to watch in the group stage, as for example Germany vs. Portugal, Spain vs. the Netherlands or Belgium vs. Russia, but the real fun would start in the play-offs.” 

Surely there will be much for The AEGEEans to follow closely together and have a great time, even though not being in Brazil or even in the same continent. You can find the Facebookgroup here.

Written by Patricia Anthony, AEGEE-Zaragoza

Featured picture courtesy of Norio.NAKAYAMA, Flickr