If sport comes can a tweet be far behind?

Published : Jan 03, 2015 00:00 IST

It could be argued that the moment when Mario Gotze scored the winning goal in the final remains the most enduring memory of 2014. Primarily because a football World Cup seems to put in the shade everything else that happens in the same year, writes Priyansh.

A couple of years ago, after the European football championship had finished and the tournament had been described by some as the best of the 21st century, an odd realisation dawned upon the sport-loving public. Twitter had come to occupy a space within the collective imagination. Dare one say it but it was defining a new way of consuming sport.

While recognising its popularity and the challenges it posed for journalists, Barney Ronay wrote at that time in The Blizzard, “Twitter is in the end just so much chaff, the most highly evolved expression yet devised of the basic human need to gossip…”

Ronay didn’t stop there. “It will not last: something else will emerge, something even more beautifully simple and persuasive.”

His argument, back then, didn’t seem persuasive. It’s tough to agree with him even now. After all, it was in 2014 that Twitter established itself as a medium for consuming sport. The microblogging site transcended borders this year that even its creators might have set. Live-tweeting, retweeting or just tweeting while watching a match gained traction like never before.

Sure, the numbers will grow. But never has Twitter felt permanent like now. It’s here to last and it will define the way we consume sport for the foreseeable future.

It’s a testament to Twitter’s acceptability that a newspaper’s coverage of any major event nowadays is incomplete without a selection of tweets. From Phil Hughes’ death to Germany winning the FIFA World Cup, Twitter dominates our imagination.

Hence, when we analyse the highs and lows of 2014 in sport, it’s nearly impossible to disregard the significance of 140 characters.

When Phil Hughes passed away on November 27, Cricket Australia let the world know through Twitter. It was an accident that resonated around the world. The cricket lover and the one who didn’t follow the sport came together.

It was a communion particularly important for the sport. Tragedy united everyone when they had been disjointed like never before. Earlier in the year, the BCCI in cahoots with the cricket boards of England and Australia had enacted a virtual takeover of the sport. The only two bodies that could have stood up to the might of the Indian board joined hands with alacrity.

Not surprisingly, there was much hand-wringing over their association. It was noteworthy that on the day Hughes passed away, the Supreme Court in India made some strong observations on the BCCI’s conduct of the IPL spot-fixing controversy and N. Srinivasan’s alleged conflict of interest.

While Hughes’ death relegated the court’s pronouncements below the major headlines, it was an issue that found prominence for much of the year. Among other things, the SC’s observations resonated with a section of cricket followers who have long clamoured for a cleaner game.

For those who have followed the ongoing case, it also reminded them of the corruption charges faced by FIFA and its low accountability. The fears over how football is being administered were further fuelled when the world governing body gave itself a clean chit in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. A large hue and cry followed and it eventually led to the resignation of FIFA’s independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia, whose report had been heavily redacted.

Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that even after the credibility crisis suffered by FIFA, it will not become irrelevant. Why? Because the World Cup still unifies people. We learnt that at the fascinating tournament in Brazil this year. In what was one of the best ever World Cups, we saw the record for the most number of goals scored in the finals (171) equalled. But it was not just the goals.

There were great stories too. The way the myth of beautiful Brazilian football was destroyed when the side resorted to systematic fouling against Colombia is worth remembering. But that’s not where it ended. A 7-1 thrashing at the hands of eventual champion Germany followed. It was a truly historic moment.

History was written in men’s tennis too, albeit in a very different vein. Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic won Grand Slam singles titles for the first time, hinting that a new wave of male tennis stars may finally carve a place for themselves at the very top.

There were women who were discovering uncharted territories too. Among the vanguard stood Alia Atkinson, who recently became the world champion in the 100-metre breaststroke swimming category in Doha. The Jamaican not only equalled the world record set by Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, she also was the first black swimmer to win a world title. It had been a long wait, just like it had been for Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena. The legendary Sri Lankan duo had failed to win a single major ICC trophy in their illustrious career, most painfully falling short at home when they played in the World T20 final against West Indies.

But earlier this year, in Bangladesh, they finally tasted success when Sri Lanka defeated India in the T20 World Cup final. Jayawardene and Sangakkara will get another opportunity to win a major tournament when the 50-over World Cup is hosted by Australia and New Zealand during February and March of 2015.

Germany’s golden generation could tell the Sri Lankans something about winning the biggest prize offered by its sport, football. The World Cup had already been redeemed before the Germans met Argentina in the final. The tournament’s reputation, though, was enhanced as the best and most popular team won the title for the first time since the country’s reunification.

It could be argued that the moment when Mario Gotze scored the winning goal in the final remains the most enduring memory of 2014. Primarily because a football World Cup seems to put in the shade everything else that happens in the same year. But it was also made memorable by the recognition that one rarely witnesses a goal of absolute quality in such high profile situations.

2014 will be worth remembering due to the Gotze goal and a few other moments. Surely, 2015 will give us memories to add to the ones we have now. And all of them will be discussed on Twitter.

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