Saturday June 14 2014

Argentina will win it

Di Maria of Argentina makes a run during a warm-up match.

Di Maria of Argentina makes a run during a warm-up match. The South Americans have enough firepower to pip Brazil, Germany and Portugal to the World Cup. Photo by AFP 

By Moses Banturaki

Funny how time rushes as you get older. Is it not only yesterday that a jubilant South Africa, unmoved by a harsh southern winter, greeted and treated us to a spectacle that few the world over expected them to pull off?
Well, all of that is now a treasured memory locked away in the mists of history.

As you read this, we shall be four games into the World’s greatest sporting event, and yet another World Cup. And just like you, I am glad I made it seeing that in my memory lingers a very old but powerful Road-Safety message in which we were bluntly told to stay alive and see the next World Cup.

So effective it is that to this day so many years afterwards, the first thing I think about after every World Cup final since is, will I see the next one?. Well, here we are now at Brazil 2014.

This time, it shall be within the safe confines of home. My motley crew of friends and I actually tried to arrange the trip more than half a year back. We spoke about being there and our experience from Albertville, the little suburb south of Johannesburg that was home for a month in 2010. We wanted to re-experience the thrill.

And believe me nothing disarms as much as mixing it with millions of foreigners in a foreign land.

In the end it was just a bluff as shifting responsibilities and shallow pockets mean none of us is making it. In hindsight, and considering the next hosts, I have for now pacified myself with the thought that no new experience shall replace the precious memories I have from South Africa 2010.

Besides, watching the games on television means there are very little chances of being mugged in a favela or dying in a stampede after un-cast concrete caves in at one of the numerous stadia hurriedly built for this occasion.

But still, home or away, it is hard not to feel pulled in by the world’s most popular sport.

Even my dear wife who hardly watches a game of football has been asking about which games are worth losing sleep over, seeing that many will end when sane people are supposed to be preparing for a new day and not closing an old one.

In any case, we shall all be drawn in by the craze. It could be a Cinderella run by an underdog from Africa, or the poetic application of already established stars like Neymar and Lionel Messi.
Either way, for the next one month, we shall forget the daily grind of life and become converts to the religion that is football. That is the power of football.

And no World Cup is complete without a prediction about winners. And to spice this up, a group of friends and I have come up with some sort of winner-takes-all lottery where we have each predicted four semi-finalists and a winner.

I know Brazil are overwhelming favourites but that didn’t stop me from appointing Argentina winners out of a group of these semi-finalists; Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Portugal. Enjoy the games and I pray we all make it across the next 1,460 days to Russia 2018.