In terms of sheer popularity, football is the undisputed leader of the sporting world. FIFA World Cup 2014, held in Brazil, had a reported viewership of 30 billion people. How can it possibly be 30 billion when the Earth’s population stands at a little under 7 billion, you ask? The simple reason is this; the aforementioned number reflects the total number of accumulated viewers, say a person watched 8 games of the 2014 edition then that same individual was counted 8 times in this particular study. If you’re still not impressed, here’s another verified statistic- the number of people who follow ‘the beautiful game’ (a term coined by the legendary Pele himself) stands at 3.5 billion. Now this statistic, unlike the one about FIFA World Cup 2014, represents unique viewers. In a nutshell, football is followed by a staggering 50% of the entire world’s population, and whenever something noteworthy happens in football, the world takes notice.
Football is a sport backed by science. Every top club in the world has a team of data scientists who rigorously work towards identifying players which would suit their team the most. The next step that follows is making humongous bids for these players in the transfer market, bids that are in thousands of crores of rupees. It is important here to note that we are talking about clubs and teams that make hundreds of millions of pounds in profits every season. No player in the entire footballing world is ever going to be ‘too expensive’ for them. My point here is this; football nowadays is not merely a sport, it’s a full-fledged business. It’s a highly structured industry with mammoths like Adidas, Nike, Bwin, Aon, Fly Emirates, Etihad etc competing with one another with bids in excess of $100 million for a chance of tying up with football clubs, because they realize one thing clearly- football clubs don’t remain clubs for too long, they become franchises. And once that happens, their investments, however unreasonable or exorbitant they might have seemed at the time of making the bids, reap benefits of magnitudes that you and I cannot even imagine.
During the past footballing season, we witnessed greatness of such extents that the world sat up and applauded in admiration. Leicester City, a club that has always operated on shoestring budgets, were crowned champions of England whereas Portugal, a country with a similarly feeble football programme, were crowned champions of Europe. As mentioned earlier, we live in a world that is practically run by the money-makers, then how could teams that are such small in stature manage to dethrone the incumbents of the football world? It simply does not make sense. To put things into perspective, the entire squad of Leicester City cost less than 1/10th of the squad values of the elite clubs of the British top tier- Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal- to name a few. Barring 4 players, none of the remaining players play for any of the elite clubs in Europe. Then how did they both manage to defy all odds and write unforeseeable history?
In my humble opinion, they could do it simply because they felt like they could. They had the audacity to think, to hope, to believe that they could achieve something that underdogs like them were probably not allowed to even dream of. The kind of emotions that sports manage to evoke cannot be overstated, and both Leicester City and Portugal have achieved all they could because of this very passion that I am currently talking about. They remained focused, they gave it their all every second of every day, and most crucially, they never lost hope. Never even thought about it. And in the end, they managed to show the entire world how not losing hope can be a winning mantra in itself. Truly, this is the stuff dreams are made of.