The commitment to training and qualifying competitions to reach the World Cup is filled with untold stories of courage, pain, disappointment and joy. But it would seem that the ultimate test for all the teams is how players and coaches manage the waiting, especially the waiting for the first game. But this early phase of waiting is an important ingredient for any World Cup, whatever the sport. During this time everyone regardless of who you are, or the position you hold in or out of football, has hope. The hope that your team has what it takes to go all the way.
Hope is the currency that drives the growth of World Cups. Whether it is the die-hard football fans travelling thousands of miles to attend games, the sports fan who watches all international competitions and has already re-tuned their radio and TV to pick up a commentary or result, the nation lover who always follows their national team in any sport or the convert who is simply caught up in the media hype and doesn’t want to miss out.
The beauty of hope is that it is inclusive. There is no pre-requisite to be knowledgeable about the game, you just need to believe. This 2019 Football World Cup appears to be capturing a bigger audience than ever before and sponsors will be waiting to see how hope can be turned into return on investment and opportunities for future investment. This could be new sponsorship deals, more media coverage, more club and coach development and a greater push for widespread professionalisation – yes paying players to be full time athletes.
For the media, hope is for a roller coaster of dramas, upsets and the birth of new heroes as the promise of a World Cup with 24 teams from big countries like China and the US and small countries like Jamaica, Scotland and New Zealand engage in a winner takes all contest. If hope is the currency of this World Cup, then competition is the fuel for each and every game. How players out on the field demonstrate their skills, teamwork, leadership, humility and desire to win is a cocktail best described as a Hope Float.
What needs to be in this cocktail (apart from an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version) are equal measures of media hype, fandom and a commitment from the global and local football community to see the success of this opening weekend of the World Cup in its own right as a moment in time and not as measure of whole scale success for gender equity in football. The future of women’s football is still being written and it is remarkable to see hope emerging in numbers we can count on.