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Respect for football fans around the world - Always have respect Vol.116

24 January 2023

Respect for football fans around the world - Always have respect Vol.116

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games attracts attention as a significant event in its own right and a sizable budget is allocated for its preparation.

In my generation, a lot of people would remember watching the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on colour televisions and being impressed by the sight of the Japanese athletes in bright red blazers marching on the cinder track of the former National Stadium under the blue autumn sky. Some of the opening ceremonies of recent Olympic Games have gone on for more than three or four hours.

In contrast, the opening ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup™ are much simpler. This is because the opening ceremony is never held by itself, but generally performed for about 30 minutes before the opening match. However, even with the limited time at hand, the host country prepares with gusto for the opportunity to show the world what they have to offer. Giacomo PUCCINI's composition “Nessun dorma,” performed by Luciano PAVAROTTI at Teatro alla Scala was broadcasted live and touched the hearts of many at the opening ceremony of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™ held at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan.

Although themes like “Harmony of Mankind” are also present, all of these opening ceremonies, including those of the Olympic Games, feature an introduction to the country’s history and a celebration of its culture. By doing so, the host country’s greatness and its wonderful culture are strongly emphasised to the rest of the world.

In terns of such “opening ceremony trends,” the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ was very unconventional. Instead of focusing on promoting its own country, it emphasised the spirit of hospitality, welcoming football fans from all over the world.

There was, of course, a part introducing the country of Qatar, “the people of the sea,” early in the ceremony, which was magical and highly artistic. After that, the familiar football chants for the participating countries were played in alphabetical order, starting with Argentina. Mascots dressed in their own national teams’ uniforms took centre stage, while fans singing along to the chants were displayed on the stadium screen.

Then, it was time for the World Cup mascots to take the stage. The mascots, representing the previous 14 tournaments since the first mascot debuted at the 1966 FIFA World Cup England™, marched past while the music turns to the official song of each tournament, before “La'eeb,” this year's mascot, emerged in the air. It was fishermen who first settled in Qatar, and the giant stingray, after which La'eeb is modelled, is a symbol of the calm waters of the Persian Gulf. The mascots, who have coloured the competition for more than 50 years, dancing around on the field and La’eeb swimming up in the air were such a joy to watch.

The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ did more than just showcase the history and culture of the host country. It welcomed football fans from all over the world and honoured the legacy of the World Cup itself, and I was deeply moved by that spirit.

It goes without saying that I believe the Qatari royal family's fervent support for the World Cup bid was intended to boost the country's reputation as a tourist destination so that it can maintain a robust economy even after the fossil fuels that currently make the country prosperous are exhausted. Furthermore, it may have been driven by a desire for “fame” in the Arab society, where honour is valued above all else. And during the aggressive bidding process, there were numerous allegations of irregularities, which brought an end to the regime of FIFA’s previous administration. In addition, Western medias repeatedly reported that foreign workers were overworked and even killed in the construction of the stadiums and infrastructure for this World Cup.

But it was refreshing to see an opening ceremony that was so straightforward in expressing not just the pride of the host country, but the love for football fans around the world, and respect for the history of the World Cup. I thought to myself, on the morning of the Japan-Germany match, that it would be an enjoyable World Cup because it was going to be held by the people of Qatar, who had prepared such a beautiful opening ceremony.

Written by OSUMI Yoshiyuki (Football Journalist)

*This article was originally posted on the Japan Football Association Newsletter, “JFAnews,” December 2022 edition.

Japan Football Association Newsletter “JFAnews”

The Japan Football Association Newsletter “JFAnews” contains all the information on the Japan National Team, and all the events hosted by the JFA. Tournament results and team information throughout the nation are also available. The official monthly magazine is a must read for coaches, referees, and all members of the football family.

For information on the newest edition (Japanese website)

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