In heated times, it’s best to have World Cup fever!

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JUNE 10 ― Perhaps the prolonged heat wave earlier this year has fried our brains, severely impairing our judgement.

And it looks like our ability to think will be further handicapped as we brace for El Nino this month. It could very well last till August.

Weeks before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, we all turned football pundits and pretended to be Joachim Low or Vicente del Bosque. Housewives and even vegetables sellers were speaking about their favourite team’s chances. Restaurateurs got their workers to wear fake jerseys while roadside burger stalls displayed mini flags of the participating teams.

And during the World Cup, the conversations strictly revolved around football.

Sadly, this is not the case this time around. Brazil — the home of football — hosts the World Cup which kicks off on Thursday (Brazil play Croatia on Friday 4am Malaysian time).

I visited several shopping malls and eateries over the weekend and was surprised by the minimal hype surrounding the World Cup. There was even an outlet promoting Hari Raya deals!

Conversations, instead, were if a particular chocolate was safe to eat and if an almost five-decade old Jimi Hendrix album cover was considered offensive.

What happened to the friendly banter where fans mocked opposing teams, from the way they played to what their coaches wore?

Too shallow for some, perhaps.

Then let’s talk about the nagging issue of match-fixing and illegal football betting that is expected to rake in millions, if not billions of Ringgit. The huge number of punters expected to place their bets during the tournament, especially on online betting sites, would contributes to illicit outflow of funds out of the country, just like they do during the Premier League weekends and during M-League matches.

For the record, Global Financial Integrity placed Malaysia among the top-10 developing countries with the highest amount of illicit financial flows from 2002 to 2011.

Too taxing for the brains, I guess. Perhaps it is easier to just continuously gripe that the value of the Ringgit is lower than the Singapore Dollar.

Some argued the timing, where most matches were played between midnight and 9am our time, was the reason to the muted promotions. I beg to differ.

Matches during the 1994 World Cup in USA had the same schedule. The same can be said about the last edition in South Africa.

Instead, funds, or the lack of it, could be the culprit as brands have piped down their marketing while people are more cautious over their expenditure.

In days of uncertainty, many would be hesitant to even buy a grade AAA Brazil or Germany jersey from a pasar malam.

The Simpsons says Germany would defeat Brazil 2-0 in the World Cup final in its World Cup episode.
The Simpsons says Germany would defeat Brazil 2-0 in the World Cup final in its World Cup episode.

But let’s keep the World Cup fever alive. Watching and bantering about 22 grown men kicking a ball for 90 minutes will certainly keep us sane, allowing us to brace some of the silliness we have to endure on a daily basis.

I hope the standard of refereeing would  not be, as Homer Simpson would put it, “D’Oh!”, and Germany would edge Brazil 2-0 in the final, as predicted in The Simpsons’ World Cup episode!

No hanky panky in Holland trip?

Speaking of World Cup, several hockey officials received an email from a travel agent with details of flight tickets to Holland. The selected officials left on Sunday and are scheduled to return on June 18, three days after the on-going hockey World Cup ends.

The national team, who qualified on merit but lost all their previous matches, played Spain in a group match last night.

Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) vice president Majid Manjit Abdullah dismissed talks the trip was an attempt to buy votes as the national body’s election is scheduled sometime this year. No specific date has been set.

According to Majid, the trip was “sponsored” by MHC president Tengku Abdullah.

“Those travelling have been briefed that it does not include accommodation and match tickets,” he was quoted by Mailsport last Friday.

“It has nothing to do with the elections.”

Let’s give MHC the benefit of the doubt, but the heated discussions raising to allegations of vote buying could have been pacified if such matters were explained from the start.

We should be transparent. It’s best to bare all when feeling the heat.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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