There’s just about one month to go until the wildly anticipated FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa. For so many fans it promises deliverance from the ordinary even gossipy progression of professional soccer, or football, or whatever it is you want to call it.

It will be a welcome break from the scandals involving French star Franck Ribery and the fretting over injuries to a litany of players such as Spanish striker Fernando Torres. This is not to mention the consternation over whether or not the England manager will allow his team’s wives and girlfriends to accompany the team overseas.

No, this summer, the World Cup will provide some much needed magic and passion.

It’s happened throughout the tournament’s history and has every chance of unfolding for the first time on African soil where the vast majority of people in a country still wrestling with economic and racial issues are devoted to the sport.

In the past there’s been Diego Maradona and the “Hand of God” goal, which sank England in 1986. Long before Zinedine Zidane was vilified for a head butt against Italy, he led France to an improbable World Cup victory at home by scoring two goals against Brazil. Zidane became an instant national hero, his image projected on the Arc de Triomphe.

Lesser known is the greatest David and Goliath story in World Cup history.

In the Brazilian gathering of 1950 a bunch of part-time players from the United States knocked off England, the acknowledged “Kings of Football,” and scuttled coronation plans.

“Sometimes the better team loses,” figured 83-year-old midfielder Walter Bahr as he remembered the 1-0 shocker conjured up by a collection of dishwashers, postal workers and teachers.

“I always felt that was one of the top things about sports. You can’t pick the winner before hand you have to play the game.”

It’s the lure of what many call the greatest tournament of all. Not everything is scripted and anything can happen when national pride and sport collide on the global stage.

“Yes, it’s my only claim to fame,” Bahr chuckled. “People think I was a great player. I was just like everybody else … but I was a World Cup player!”

Thankfully, only the players can deliver the magic once the World Cup begins.

– Gemini Award winner and author Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. A 20-year CBC Sports veteran, he has covered a variety of professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.

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