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Kick off to a nothing like it sport

Kick off to a nothing like it sport
Highlights

It will be a unique Thursday for millions of fans and hundreds of sportspersons when two spectacular, nay emotional, extravaganzas get underway in two separate continents, hours from one another. 

It will be a unique Thursday for millions of fans and hundreds of sportspersons when two spectacular, nay emotional, extravaganzas get underway in two separate continents, hours from one another.

To the cricket fans, the Test baptism of Afghanistan would be emotionally choking given that the Big Brother may be put to a stern test by the ‘rookie’ outfit, whose dream merchants are set to weave magical spins over the next five days.

Alas, much to their disappointment, it is other spectacle that will command global spotlight and relegate the Test into the shadows.

All said, the world will come to a virtual standstill from around 3 pm (IST) when the 21st edition of the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet, FIFA World Cup-2018, kicks-off at the iconic Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow with the opener pitting host Russia against Saudi Arabia.

It will be football mania that will engulf all sports activities till July 15, irrespective of whether one is into it or not; such is the magnetic spell of the breath-taking sport, whose viewership out beats the best of Olympics, IPL and NBA by miles, and one that unites the world like no other.

In hindsight, the run up to the World Cup has been ridden with controversies, one too many. The most pronounced was the fierce opposition to Russia being the host and the alleged kickbacks paid during the bidding process.

One need not go into the merits and demerits of the accusations but what emerges clearly is that if cricket has ceased to be the ‘gentleman’s’ game that it was, football bears no resemblance to the ‘beautiful’ game identity that was reverentially hailed from the time it was invented.

One of the reasons for the downslide has been the unabashed ‘I give a damn’ manner the controversial Sepp Blatter held sway and how his dictatorial administration called the shots.

Corruption seeped in, became a buzzword and almost destroyed the very fabric of the sport that brings together footballers from several nationalities as teammates for almost the entire season (IPL is a very late entrant), thanks to Champions League and La Liga, to name a few.

As the fans wait with bated breath and keep track of the progress of their favourites, bookies and gambling syndicates into organised crime will be eyeing pots of gold with their cunning at making hay while hoodwinking the best of security apparatus with nonchalant ease.

There are already reports that around 20 per cent of the wi-fi hotspots that have been set up at the 12 venues will be dangerously vulnerable. Critics are pointing fingers at the Putin administration, and accuse it of turning a Nelson’s Eye by ‘being’ oblivious of such open abuse of the system.

But then, to the passionate and charged-up followers of the sport these will not hinder their excitement once the war for global supremacy gets triggered and produces new superstars and brings inglorious ends to some illustrious careers. That is the euphoric and enduring charm of the greatest spectacle on earth, take it or leave it!

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