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Last Updated : Jun 15, 2018 04:42 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Podcast | FIFA World Cup 2018: All you need to know about the football extravaganza

One of the most watched events in the world has kicked off, and we here at Moneycontrol will try and answer some of the internet’s most burning questions about it.

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The day of the FIFA Men’s World Cup is finally here. And on this podcast we will cover some odds and ends related to the Cup. In just a few hours, one of the most watched events in the world will kick off, and we here at Moneycontrol will try and answer some of the internet’s most burning questions about it. My name is Rakesh, asking me the questions, is Seetal, and you are listening to Moneycontrol.

Question 1: Where and when can I watch the inaugural ceremony and match of the World Cup?

Answer: Set your clocks to 6:30 PM, because that’s when the opening ceremony begins. The first match is between host country Russia and Saudi Arabia. That starts at 8:30 PM. The venue is of course the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. You can watch the ceremony and the matches on TV on Sony Ten, Sony Ten 2 HD. You can livestream it online on SonyLiv.com. Football is increasing in popularity in India and you can tell that is true because the World Cup will have commentary in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam as well, on Sony’s other channels. In a recent report, Sony officials said they were expecting viewership in India for the 2018 World Cup to cross 100 million. With match timings more amenable for Indian viewers, the World Cup in Russia is expected to attract very good viewership. For the uninitiated, and those who don’t care to watch football matches at ungodly hours, bear in mind that Russia, or at least the Moscow part of it, is 2.5 hours behind India, timezone-wise. So you should be done by 1AM most days. The official broadcaster even has a campaign called ‘Meri Doosri Country’ that encourages Indian viewers to cheer for an ‘adopted’ country’s team. I have a feeling that to most of us it’s going to be Brazil.

Question 2: Is the inaugural ceremony going to be fun? Who is performing in it?

Answer: Robbie Williams – one-time teen heartthrob and current global superstar who is incidentally excellent at telling funny anecdotes. You should hear the one about him getting booed by 80,000 German fans in Nuremberg when he – apparently out of love for them – sang the Nazi National Anthem. Major faux pas! But the fun is in the telling.

How are the British ‘Taking That’? See what I did there? A lot of British MPs and politicians – not well. Robbie has been accused of selling his soul to a dictator. Politicians and campaigners have criticized his decision to perform in Russia and urged him to follow the lead of the royal family, as well as government ministers, and refrain from attending the event in protest against Russia’s alleged involvement in the Skripal poisoning – that is the alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Labour Party MP Stephen Dougherty said, “It is surprising and disappointing to hear that such a great British artiste as Robbie Williams, who has been an ally of human rights campaigns and the LGBT+ community, has apparently agreed to be paid by Russia and FIFA to sing at the World Cup opener.” Russia is of course infamous for its extreme intolerance of LGBT people.

Robbie though is no stranger to partying in Russia. Why, he even wrote a song called ‘Party Like A Russian.’ The song put a rather romantic spin on capital flight from Russia! Sample the lyrics for yourself – “It takes a certain kind of man with a certain reputation to alleviate the cash from a whole entire nation,” and “Subcontract disputes to some brutes in Louboutin … Act highfalutin’ while my boys put the boots in.” Earlier this year, he even performed at a St Petersburg party to celebrate 25 years of MegaFon, a Russian mobile phone company controlled by Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek-born Russian billionaire and Arsenal shareholder.

That’s not all. The Guardian of London reports – “In 2014, he allegedly performed to a group of Putin’s inner circle at the request of the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich. Vladislav Surkov, who planned Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and is understood to be one of Putin’s closest advisers, was personally invited to the party by Abramovich. Williams was later photographed with Surkov’s wife, Natalya Dubovitskaya.”

What does Robbie have to say about the accusation that he may be no “Angel”? “I’m so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance. I’ve done a lot in my career, and opening the FIFA World Cup to 80,000 football fans in the stadium and many millions all over the world is a boyhood dream.”

Celebrities – you can’t do with them, you can’t do without them.

Question 3 – Enough Robbie Williams and his saying Somethin’ Stupid. Which other Angels are saying Let Me Entertain You at the ceremony?

Answer: It’s an eclectic mix actually – we have Placido Domingo, among the greatest tenors the world has seen. Domingo was a third of the great ensemble The Three Tenors, with the other two being Jose Carreras and the great Luciano Pavarotti. One of the better-known contemporary tenors, Peruvian Juan Diego Florez whose light and flexible voice I am personally a huge fan of, will also be performing. If you do not much of Florez’s repertoire, we refer you to the aria ‘Ah Mes Amis’ from the Donizetti comic opera ‘La Fille du Regiment.’ This aria, or song, requires you to hit nine high C’s and Florez is delightful while doing so. Perhaps we might get a hint of that? Here’s hoping.

No one from Russia is performing you ask? Aida Garifullina is, that’s who. This young soprano (the highest vocal range for females, like tenor is for males), who incidentally shares her name with an extraordinary opera Aida, is mostly known for her Mozart opera roles, and had earlier performed at the Summer Olympics in London 2012. Cornering the opening ceremony market there, I see. Good for her, because there will be plenty of eyeballs watching her hit those high notes.

So… it’s a lot of classical music? Well no! We need the official song, don’t we? This time it’s going to be the turn of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Joining the ranks of Waka Waka by Shakira (2010), La Copa de la Vida by Ricky Martin (1998), We Are One by Jennifer Lopez and… Pitbull (2014), will be Will Smith and Nicky Jam with the official song of the tournament – Live It Up. Admittedly, the song has not received much love on the internet, but perhaps watching it performed live with 500 dancers might change that? We will know soon enough.

Question 4: Tell me all I need to know about India and the World Cup? How many Indians are likely going to be in Russia to watch the Cup?

Answer: Good question. First up, as you well know, 32 countries are playing in the tournament across 11 cities in Russia. Among the countries not qualified for FIFA World Cup 2018, Indian football fans have purchased the third highest number of tickets for the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. Indian fans are preparing to turn up in huge numbers at the biggest contest of the world’s favourite sport. As per a report by The Times of India, “International fans have been allocated 54% of the tickets. We can confirm that 17,962 tickets have been allocated to Indian fans. India is in the top-20 in terms of tickets sold. The sales are ongoing.”

The host nation, Russia, leads the ticket sales with 872,578 tickets bought by Russians. Last year, when the ticket sales started, Indians were amongst the top 10 buyers, according to FIFA officials. Among the playing nations, Russia is followed by a few Europeans teams in terms of the tickets purchased. From the countries who did not qualify for the World Cup, USA purchased the highest number of tickets followed by China (39,884 tickets) and India with 17,962 fans booking their seat in the stands of the World Cup.

[Hang on, quick side question 5: Just remind me… where are we on FIFA global rankings when it comes to football?

Side answer: Well. 97. It’s a good number to tell your parents if it’s your exam scores, but in goal-scoring football ranking, that’s not quite there. And no, if you are asking one more side question, no, we have never qualified for a World Cup yet. BUT. The popularity of the game is increasing. And we will soon get there. Hum Honge Kaamyaab &c. But listen, we do have some fanatic fans alright - According to FIFA officials, when the last-minute ticket sales phase started in April 2018, Indian fans purchased around 1900 tickets in the first 24 hours itself.]

Question 6: Speaking of ticket sales, I read somewhere that FIFA has lodged a complaint about ticket sales or something? What’s happening?

Answer: That is correct. FIFA has filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against online ticket platform Viagogo in its crackdown on unauthorized World Cup sales at marked-up prices. FIFA said on Tuesday it joined other parties filing criminal complaints against alleged "opaque and deceptive business conduct" by Viagogo in the so-called secondary market. The legal action filed on Monday was "based on a breach of the law on unfair competition against Viagogo AG with the public prosecutor's office in Geneva," soccer's world governing body said in a statement.

Sad news is that gullible fans who bought hrough unofficial platforms, including Viagogo, for World Cup games in Russia face being denied entry to stadiums. FIFA said it would cancel all tickets it identified as being traded through unauthorized sellers. Viagogo's website was still selling World Cup tickets on Tuesday, including single seats for the June 14 opening game at more than double face value. For example, a category 3 ticket, the cheapest available to non-Russian residents, for Russia vs. Saudi Arabia in Moscow was priced at 474 Swiss francs (USD 480). The same ticket bought originally through FIFA's website would cost USD 220. A ticket in a corporate hospitality section for the same game at the Luzhniki Stadium was priced at 5,460 Swiss francs (USD 5,530) on the Viagogo site. That’s some scam.

This is not new though – similar incidents occurred even in Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro during the past two tournaments. It’s the market I guess – wherever there is money to be made, there come the scamsters.

Question 7: Speaking of money, how much money do players stand to make at the World Cup? Is it as much as they make with the football clubs?

Answer: Not really. Playing at the World Cup is more for their country’s glory than their bank accounts. The tournament does not really pay the astronomical amounts that these players get paid at the clubs – those numbers are a whole different ballgame; they read to me like some small countries’ GDP. Does not however mean that peanuts are on offer though. There is still a substantial amount of money to be made. The prize money amount available for distribution at the 2018 FIFA World Cup has increased from USD 358 million in 2014, to USD 400 million this year. Let’s break that down:

  • 16 teams eliminated after the Group Stage will receive USD 8 million each
    • 8 teams eliminated after the Round 16 receive USD 12 million each
    • 4 teams eliminated in the Quarter Finals receive USD 16 million each
    • The team finishing fourth will receive USD 22 million
    • The team finishing third will receive USD 24 million
    • The runner-up will receive USD 28 million
    • The winner will take home USD 38 million


Apart from the amount that the teams would win, all 32 qualifying teams will receive a preparation fee of USD 1.5 million each. As per FIFA’s Club Benefit Programme, an additional USD 209 million will be awarded to the clubs releasing its players to participate in the World Cup. Also, another USD 134 million has been earmarked by FIFA under the Club Protection Programme, by which clubs are compensated for losses incurred due to players getting injured while playing in the World Cup. The total contributions for the participants in the 2018 FIFA World cup will amount to USD 791 million which is 40 percent more than that of the previous edition.

So well, it’s not exactly nothing. After all, it is one of the greatest sporting events known to mankind.

Question 8: Man, this all sounds like great fun. I wish India would qualify someday in my lifetime. Quickly tell me a story about Indian football and make me feel better, won’t you?

Answer: We’ll get there, we’ll get there. But here is one of my favourite stories about Indian football. Partha Chatterjee, a prominent historian writes about this in his book ‘The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power.’ It’s a very Lagaan-like story, and I have no idea why there has not been a self-important Aamir Khan film about it yet. I mean, there has been cricket, cycling, wrestling. I should think it’s time for football. The story goes that football, much like cricket, was a transplant in India thanks to the British. And the white guys kept the game very much to themselves, thank you. If cricket gained a foothold among white dudes in India in Gujarat, it was at the other end in Bengal that football set foot in. No wonder then that West Bengal remains one of the most footie-obsessed states in the country. In Bengal, the ‘Gentlemen of Barrackpore’ played against the ‘Calcutta Club of Civilians’. All white, no Indians please. Business as usual. But, wait a minute, weren’t the British all about gentlemanliness and cricket? Sure, but by this time, football had come to be associated with Victorian masculinity and was thought to impart lessons in discipline, obedience, gracious defeats and honourable victories. The British, par for the course, were not readily accepting of Indians in the game. They took to the well-trotted route of racism, and well, body-shaming. One journalist went on to declare one can identify a Bengali by his legs. Either they were anorexic thin, or “very fat and globular, with round thighs like a woman’s.” The ‘gentleman’ went a step further – “The Bengali’s leg, was the leg of a slave.” The Bengalis were undeterred. Shamed and abused, and yet they persisted. Small victories against small British teams were occurring, but the turning point in this took place on July 29, 1911.

The Mohun Bagan Athletic Club had, by sheer will and defying great odds, reached the final of the Indian Football Association Shield. On their way to the final, they had beaten The Rangers, the Rifle Brigade, and Middlesex Regiment in a thrilling semi-final. Word had already spread of this extraordinary turn of events where the local team would face the East Yorkshire Regiment at the finals.

The date was July 29, and the venue, the Calcutta Football Club grounds. The game was supposed to start at 5:30 PM, but the crowds had started to assemble starting in the morning. Special trains ran from Burdwan to Howrah, extra ferries ferried fans across the river to Calcutta. Fans from neighbouring states including Odisha, Assam and Bihar were ready to participate in the moment, so much bigger than the game. Even though the inside of the stadium could only hold about four to five thousand people, the assembled crowd, leaking into the ramparts of Fort William and beyond, were about 100,000 in strength!

The game began.

Chatterjee’s writing speaks of the climax of a film that I still do not believe is not made. He says, “After a goal-less first half of 25 minutes (which was considered sufficiently punishing on a tropical summer afternoon), a hush descended on the assembled multitude when Jackson put East Yorks in the lead. But five minutes before the final whistle, the crowd exploded when Shibdas Bhaduri, after frequently switching positions with his look-alike brother Bijaydas, to confuse the opponent, made a run down the left to equalize. Then with barely a minute left, “Slippery” Shibdas, as he came to be known among white players and journalists, dribbled through the defence once more, and facing a solitary Cressey in goal, kept his head, and passed the ball to the unmarked Abhilash Ghosh, who drove home the winner.”

The scenes that followed were unlike any seen in Calcutta Maidan. Think Lagaan? That. In real life. The newspapers were in raptures. Ananda Bazaar Patrika, in an editorial tited, The Immortal Eleven, said, “May God bless the Immortal Mohun Bagan for raising their nation in the estimation of the Western people by their brilliant feat on Saturday. The victory is no doubt ours and that in the line of physical culture wherein the Bengalis were at any rate for so long held to be lamentably deficient.”

Victory was that much sweeter because the men played with no boots. Not least because football boots cost well over Rs 7, much more than the average monthly salary of a schoolteacher. Besides reasserting the Indian male’s masculinity, the victory of a barefoot team against a privileged English set also rang resoundingly of nationalism—as Chatterjee notes, the win in 1911 came at a time when Bengal was lit by armed resistance against the Raj. Only six years prior, the same Bengali people had staged agitations challenging the partition of the province by Lord Curzon.

So, to cut a long but thrilling story short, we have shown moments of brilliance in a game that has never quite enjoyed the same popularity or clout as cricket. Football fever in India is on the rise, and if history is anything to go by, it should not take us too long to challenge the world order, one goal at a time. If only, our Ministry of Sport read the history books.

Happy football season everyone!
First Published on Jun 14, 2018 09:30 pm
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