His popularity has not waned

Kosovo Football Federation isn’t a member of FIFA. Hence, it wasn’t a surprise to note that the Kosovan club Hajvalia was enthusiastic about offering Luis Suarez a chance to play competitive football.

Luis Suarez has been banned from all football-related activities by FIFA for four months, but this hasn’t dimmed his popularity among some club owners. Indeed, while it looks ever so likely that he will sign for FC Barcelona, the Uruguayan has some exotic suitors lined up too.

After Georgia had fought its brief war against Russia in 2008, the Republic of Abkhazia proclaimed independence. Although the territory is not recognised by the international community and FIFA, it has a running football league. One of the clubs in the competition, Nart FC, has offered Suarez an opportunity to represent the side, while he serves his ban.

The president of the club, Gennady Tsvinariya, has confirmed that the striker can participate in the Abkhazian championship. “Of course we cannot offer the Uruguayan footballer a financial package that he is used to, but the Abkhazian championship is at its peak. We will be able to offer Suarez the chance to maintain his match fitness,” Tsvinariya told ITAR-TASS news agency.

But, the list of Suarez’s coveters doesn’t finish here. After all, even the Kosovo Football Federation isn’t a member of FIFA. Hence, it wasn’t a surprise to note that the Kosovan club Hajvalia was equally enthusiastic about offering Suarez a chance to play competitive football. Although it’s highly unlikely that the Uruguayan will accept either offer, he has something to chew on while he serves the ban.

‘One centimetre from glory’

Towards the dying seconds of extra-time in the Brazil-Chile round of 16 match, Chile’s Mauricio Pinilla thwacked a shot against the crossbar to leave the host intrepid. That’s how close Brazil came to an early exit from the World Cup.

Indeed, considering Chile later lost on penalties, one would think Pinilla would want to forget that moment for the rest of his life. Well, no. To the contrary, the striker has immortalised the miss on his body.

The Cagliari footballer’s arm now bears a tattooed image of the miss; a puny version of Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar looks in awe as the ball strikes the bar. The tattoo is headlined by the inscription “One centimetre from glory.”

While it’s a moot point whether getting the tattoo hurt more than the miss, both acts will certainly be counted among the moments of the World Cup once the tournament ends.

Belgium waffles

Much before the USA fought its battle against Belgium on the pitch in its World Cup round of 16 encounter, a war against all things Belgian had already been launched in the country by “patriotic” citizens.

From waffles to beer, every remote connection to the World Cup opponent was exploited in markets and on social networking websites. Belgian waffles were particularly targeted.

In 2003, France had opposed the USA’s invasion of Iraq and the ‘Freedom Fries’ movement was launched. Many Americans chose to boycott French Fries then and they did the same to Belgian waffles on July 1.

In fact, Georgia-based popular chain Waffle House went to the length of clarifying on Twitter that it doesn’t and won’t serve waffles from the low-lying nation. “We don’t believe in Belgian waffles,” tweeted the breakfast chain.

The waffle war on the micro-blogging site was escalated by some U.S. citizens; with one user even saying that anyone who orders a Belgian waffle on the day of the match should be arrested for treason.

Waffle House was later joined by Budweiser, FIFA’s official beer sponsor, in denying its Belgian connection. Budweiser is owned by a company based in Belgium but it wholeheartedly supported the American cause on Twitter.

This light-hearted skirmish also presented an opportunity to boost a company’s sales. New York City’s famous Wafels and Dinges store was attacked by many on Twitter for persisting with Belgian waffles and a few even called for a year-long boycott. Some remained ambiguous, like Jack Sterne on Twitter who said, “The only waffles are Waffle House waffles. Sorry Wafels and Dinges… I’ll love you after we win.”

But the maligned store responded in spectacular fashion, as it attracted both sets of fans. In addition to broadcasting the match at the cafe, Wafels and Dinges handed out free waffles for 15 minutes after every Belgian goal, while ice cream cones at no cost were given away for an American goal.

With Belgium winning 2-1 and all the goals coming in extra-time, it must have been a tense finish at Wafels and Dinges too.

Impregnable

Before the waffles and ice cream cones were munched by thousands, they were treated to a goalkeeping masterclass by Tim Howard. The United States goalkeeper made no less than 16 saves — a World Cup record — to extend the contest to extra-time.

In a country grabbed, by World Cup fever, Howard instantly became a national hero. In fact, soon after the match, his name and photo found their way to the U.S. Secretary of Defence Wikipedia page at the expense of the incumbent Chuck Hagel. While the online encyclopaedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has severely criticised such content tampering in the past, even he could appreciate the humour behind the mischief. “I do NOT APPROVE of vandalizing Wikipedia for comedic effect. But this is exquisite.”

Hagel was himself impressed by Howard’s heroics and called the goalkeeper to congratulate him.

Yet, the general appreciation for the Everton custodian didn’t stop there. Soon a petition was launched on the White House website for the government to rename the Washington National Airport to ‘Tim Howard National Airport.’ The petition text is worth a read.

“Whereas Tim Howard has shown himself to be a national treasure, Minister of Defence, Friend of Joe Biden, and the holder for the record of most saves in a World Cup match; therefore, we politely request that we rename the airport to recognise his accomplishments, and meritorious service to the United States of America.”

The goal of the petitioners is to collect 100,000 signatures by the end of July. As of July 6, 17,173 people had officially supported the cause.

FIFA and its hypocrisies

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate. The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law.”

Earlier this year, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke made his opinion clear on the controversy surrounding the availability of beer at World Cup venues. Alcohol had been banned at Brazilian stadiums since 2003 in order to combat fan violence.

Yet, with FIFA adamant that the permission to sell beer must be included in the World Cup law, the Brazilian Congress had to eventually relent. The sport’s governing body actively protects its sponsors and Budweiser, an elite brewer, is one of them.

Yet, now, Valcke is amazed at the level of drunkenness at the World Cup venues. In an interview to Brazilian sports network SporTV, the General Secretary admitted that there were too many people drunk at the stadiums and linked this to violence! Indeed, irony passed away at that very moment.

Fan violence has been witnessed — albeit they were minor incidents — in some matches, like the round of 16 clash between Colombia and Uruguay in Rio de Janeiro. There have also been some reports documenting violent activity initiated by drunken fans outside stadiums. Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian media didn’t take long to brand Valcke a hypocrite. The General Secretary, to his credit, admitted that FIFA has to look at its position on alcohol sales in the future.

“If we think that it is necessary to control (alcohol sales) we will control them. We would never put the organisation of a match at risk,” said Valcke.

A sporting gesture

With its courageous display against Germany in the round of 16, despite losing, Algeria had won many hearts at the World Cup. Yet, this wasn’t enough for the side.

Once the Algerian national team returned home, it celebrated its successful display at the tournament with an open-top bus tour of the capital, Algiers. The bus was draped with the Palestinian flag, as Algeria has been a long-term ally of the embattled state.

The generosity didn’t stop there either. The Algerian side later announced that it would donate its entire prize money of nine million dollars to the people of Gaza. At a felicitation for the team, star striker Islam Slimani reportedly announced, “They need it more than us.”

In fact, Algeria’s gesture deserves exceptional appreciation because it provides a pleasant contrast to the much-publicised internal bickering within the Nigerian, Ghanaian and Cameroonian camps for win bonuses and prize money.

Compiled by Priyansh