With the World Cup come and gone, the global football community is now looking forward to the next "new and improved" event in Brazil. And we all owe this to the great lessons learned in South Africa.
1) Bad officiating that turned into a blessing.
The referees in this tournament left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth with their horrible officiating and often excruciating judgments. The men in color (hardly anyone of the judges wore black this time around), did not discriminate when it came to making bad calls, and they effected the outcome of almost every match.
Nevertheless, and on the bright side, it also forced the big boss (Sepp Blatter), to accept the fact that FIFA needs to implement 21st Century technology to control the game and the calls.
Hopefully we'll be able to see less of the human blunders in 2014 when Brazilians host the big event.
2) The rise of the underdog!
The most exciting occurrence in South Africa was the rise of the underdog! There were at least a single side in every group that rose to the occasion, and proved the world wrong with their flair and elegance. No team was immune to the danger of being eliminated, and teams with not much experience, or big superstars, gave the favorites a good run for their money.
3) The ascension of Asian football
Without a doubt, this was the very first time that Asian football demonstrated to the world how far the beautiful game has gone in the old continent. South Korea, and Japan made it to the second round in style (for the first time outside their continent), and quick North Koreans displayed a great game of football that brought excitement to the table.
The message was, "we are not pushovers and are here to play the game as good as anyone else!"
4) Lessons from the fear factor!
One of the most decisive factors in South Africa was the fear factor. Many sides lost the advantage of moving forward due to this factor alone. Playing conservatively not only did not pay off, but was yet again a vivid example that unless you get on that pitch to conquer your challenger without fear, or you are going to lose the challenge.
The games between Germany and Spain, Brazil against Netherlands, and Netherlands against Spain are just few examples of this phenomenon. I bet the team psychologists are working extra hard to overcome this dilemma as we speak.
5) Superior football leagues
European success in South Africa was not a fluke. They owe their dominance to their absolute superior leagues. The national team of every country owes its success or failure to her league, and this was yet another example of how this works. Gradually, but surely, European teams gained the upper hand to brush off the competition and prove their dominance, and in this circumstance, Spanish La Liga, Royal Dutch Football Association, and German Bundesliga proved to be the best of the best!
6) "No racism" motto
Every World Cup is famous for a political or a social state of affairs. Johan Cruyff boycotted the '78 World Cup finals and highlighted the plight of thousands of young men and women who were tortured and murdered under a fascist dictatorship. In 1986, after the brief war over the Falkland Islands, England and Argentina faced off in Mexico City to settle a score. Iran and USA made history in the summer of 1998 in Lyon, France, melting the ice after almost 20 years of political hostility towards one another. And South Africa became a righteous venue for the "No Racism" motto. No one could ask for a better place or more appropriate subject to bring this issue up.
Bravo South Africa!
7) Say No to ugly football
When Luis Suarez of Uruguay took the field against Germany, he was booed for the entire 90 minutes of the game for his prior ugly deed against Ghana. Ivory Coast's Abdul Kader Keita, was not hit with the ball or slapped across the face or punched, just bumped by the Brazilian star Kaka. He fooled the referee. But, people took notice!
Arjen Rubben of Netherlands lost the respect of many for play-acting. The Brazilian team correspondingly lost few fans for the same reason. And finally, the mother of all evil, De Jong of Netherlands and his infamous Kung Fu Kick...
With numerous cameras in place and some good and fancy footwork by the TV crews, nothing is hidden from the ever-alert audience. The fans said no to ugly football! Hopefully the athletes participating in the next World Cup event will be even more aware and alert about their actions.
8) Unite or get out!
Early departure of the French team from South Africa was a great lesson to those who think they are above the game itself.
In one of the biggest disappointments in recent history, the French left the World Cup, defeated in every category. Not only did they lose to the opponent, they also lost to themselves. This was a great lesson for future participants. Unite or get out. The World Cup belongs to teams who come in as one unit, and the rest should keep out.
9) Out with the old and in with the new.
The Italians gave us a reason to believe in younger feet. Not only could the older crew not get the job done, but the defending champions also left in a hurry to do some soul-searching. The Azzurri are going through generational change, but Marcello Lippi's gamble will be remembered for the generations to come. Ghana's success on the other side, however, showed us why it is important to invest in youth.
10) Change was good!
Give other countries a chance to host. In 2002, South Korea and Japan did a wonderful job of hosting the big event, and this year South Africa was yet another fabulous example of what it takes to congregate the world.
All we can say is:
Afrikaans: Baie Dankie
Sesotho: Ke a leboha
Northern Sotho: Ke a leboga
Setswana: Ke a leboga
Tshivenda: Ndo livhuwa / Ro livhuwa
Thank you South Africa!