more important than the fut coins

That is not to say the World Cup is bigger or more important than the fut coins Olympics, but the athletics event is essentially the same show every four years. The World Cup is still evolving. From humble beginnings it only began to resemble a genuine world event in the fifties, before being defined in this country in 1966 and reaching a glorious peak four years later in 1970. Some would argue the World Cup has never been as much fun since, which is perhaps a little harsh, it probably depends on how old you happened to be at the time and whether you had a colour television. While Mexico 70 stands out as a high point for most people, an uncomplicated festival of football with a genuinely high level of skill and entertainment, history will probably not judge what followed in the next three decades too severely.

Only the 1990 tournament was depressingly dire and defensive, and sensible changes were made after Italia 90 to ensure that in USA 94 and the contests that followed the spirit of the game could not be crushed by cynical, negative tactics. That was perhaps the last useful service Fifa performed for world football, apart from organising goalline technology at least four years too late. Without delving into the extremely disturbing controversy about bribery and rigged voting in the processes that led to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups being awarded to Russia and Qatar, it is plain to even the most casual observer that Fifa's role in football's global festival has grown into something unhealthy and grotesque.

It has long been recognised that global sporting authorities operate as private fiefdoms and are prone to corruption, but for most of history the average sports fan has been prepared to shrug when presented with evidence of irregularities and view it as a victimless crime. The tireless investigative journalist Andrew Jennings has been blowing his whistle in the wind a lot of the time for though his information was correct and his exposes accurate, it barely seemed to matter once another successful tournament got under way. Fifa might have been at best a secretive organisation, at worst a corrupt one, but as long as it stayed in the background and the World Cup was undamaged few people seemed to mind. They mind now. The World Cup is damaged.

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