All set for the greatest football show on earth

Thursday June 14 2018

Switzerland's midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri

Switzerland's midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri signs autographs during a training session on June 12, 2018 in Tolyatti also know as Togliatti ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. PHOTO | FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP 

By JAMES ONYANGO MWAMBA
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IN MOSCOW

If playing in the Fifa World Cup is every footballer’s ultimate dream, then covering the tournament is the dream of every sports journalist.

Tournaments don’t come bigger than the World Cup. In terms of international appeal, the combined television viewership over the 32 days, the resources that go into the event’s organisation and the revenue generated are monumental.

You can think about the Olympic Games, Uefa Champions League final, World Championships in Athletics, and the Super Bowl, but very few tournaments rival the World Cup in popularity.

The quadrennial event is a festival to look forward to every four years. And when it arrives, many people  eat, breath and sleep football.

The countdown to the tournament is even better if your national team is among those competing.

READY FOR A DANCE

Like a night runner getting ready for a dance, you plan for the tournament almost like a player. The attendant thrill takes over one’s  senses and builds up in the days leading to the kick-off.

When the captain of a national team leads his 11-man army out of the dug-out for a contest of mental strength and athleticism, and when your team scores, the accompanying cathartic effect that fans experience is second to none.

 Russia 2018 World Cup

An Egypt fan waves at the bus of Egypt national football team upon its arrival at the Ekaterinburg airport, on June 13, 2018 ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. PHOTO | HECTOR RETAMAL | AFP

From feigning sickness to coming up with funeral ceremonies of non-existent relatives, many people seek every available opportunity to skip work and watch the games.

Even for long-suffering football fans whose teams have not known what it feels like to play in the World Cup, pretending to ignore the tournament is like suppressing a cough. Sooner or later, it will come out.

So for the next 32 days, yours truly will bring you timely reports from the ground as football superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Marcelo, Courtinho, Ferminho, Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Harry Kane, Thibaut Courtois, Eden Hazard, De Gea, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Mesut Ozil, Luis Suarez, Jon Obi Mikel and others grace your living rooms.

KWESE SPORT

NTV in partnership with Kwese Sport will bring you 32 matches live from Russia, and yours truly will keep you updated on the happenings on the ground.

As a deaf, white cat named Achilles begins his work as Russia's official soothsayer for the World Cup today, you can see why many fans will be praying for good predictions from the feline, just as Paul the Octopus did in 2010.

Today, Achilles will be presented with bowls marked with flags of Russia and Saudi Arabia to predict the winner. Nigeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Senegal will fly Africa’s flag at the tournament in Russia against strong opponents from the rest of the world.

The “Super Eagles” of Nigeria will play in Group ‘D’ alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland.

STAR-STUDDED

Morocco will be in Group ‘B’ with a star-studded Spain, reigning European champions Portugal and Iran, while Tunisia will be in Group ‘G’ alongside Panama, England and Belgium. Senegal will fight it out in Group ‘H’ alongside Colombia, Japan and Poland.

Group ‘C’ has Australia, Peru, Denmark and 2016 European championships runners-up France, Group ‘E’ has Serbia, Costa Rica, Brazil and Switzerland while Group ‘F’ has champions Germany, South Korea, Mexico and Sweden.

Former champions Italy and Netherlands are not playing in this year’s tournament but fans are assured of top-class action, with champions Germany, Brazil, Spain, France, and Argentina being some the top teams being touted to win this year’s tournament.