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Blog 4: Our man in Qatar!

I can’t buy a beer until the Fans Zone opens at 7pm so I’ve been contemplating World Cup history again.

The favourites to win in Qatar are Brazil and Argentina but the game in both countries began by ex-pat Poms playing cricket. Cricket! In South America. So should we be inviting the Brazilians and Argies to the Boxing Say test? The Argies eventually moved on from cricket when Tommy Hogg from Yorkshire in 1868 formed an ex-pat football team and challenged another cricket club in Montevideo in the first ever Argentina vs Uruguay football international – a game which would repeat in 1930 as the first ever World Cup Final with Uruguay winning in 4-2. And to this day Uruguay has 4 stars on their shirts signifying the 2 World Cups they won when football was only played at the Olympics and their 2 FIFA World Cups won from 1930 and 1950.

Back to the cricket – cricket was the reason why the giant Italian club AC Milan was formed and the first football club in Austria, the Vienna Cricket Club became First Vienna FC. Read Stuart and Philip Laycock’s book How Britain Brought Football to the World for more gems like this.

Getting serious again. ‘Sportswashing’ is a new word for me, but it’s far from a new concept. It was Mussolini who wanted the newly formed Italy to have a showcase for its identity and he targeted the 1934 World Cup to seal Italian identity. In 1934 FIFA ranked the best footballing nations as England, Austria…and Scotland. Neither England or Scotland would enter the World Cup. So in front of Mussolini, Italy beat Austria in the semi-final and played Czechoslovakia in the final winning 2-1. Then in 1938, when many nations didn’t play – Spain was in Civil War, Austria had been annexed by Hitler’s Germany and Japan was at war with China, the Italian team wore back shirts in the quarter final rather than the Azzuri blue we know today and played Brazil in the semi-final. Strangely, the Brazilian coach chose to drop his best players and used his reserves. Italy wins again, playing Hungary in the final, who also dropped their best players, and the Italians win 4-2 making Mussolini very happy! Who’d have thought.

The countdown to my games begins…


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