The beautiful game
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - June 19, 2018 - 12:00am

It’s what makes me sleep early and wake up past midnight, ready to head to the nearest sports lounge-bar to watch live on TV the FIFA World Cup games. I had to sneak out of the house at such ungodly hour because at 2 a.m. only one cable TV channel in the country is airing the games live (unfortunately, I am subscribed to its competitor, a satellite TV service provider).

Football (soccer) is called “the beautiful game” and I’m sure many of you in this part of the world are wondering: Shouldn’t that title belong to basketball?

Your indifference to football is perfectly fine. But if you’re in a crowd of football fans –a really small minority in this country– who have made the sports lounge-bar a makeshift temple for the beautiful game, you’d better show some respect.

That’s a half-meant joke, of course. When the game is already live on TV and you’re still half-drunk flirting and talking loudly across the table about anything other than football, Neymar, Ronaldo, or Messi, all that you’ll probably earn are some slightly irritated glances from the rest of us.

So when Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña announced in his Facebook page that the city government, together with some private sponsors, are airing the FIFA World Cup live at the Cebu City Sports Center grandstand, we felt like a minority group whose pleas were finally heard.

But with the sports complex being far from my home in Banilad, imagine my frustration when I was driving around town not finding a single 24/7 resto-bar or hotel lobby in Banilad and uptown business parks showing the World Cup games. Until the other night when I was finally able to find one in Panagdait.

Prior to that I was imagining myself wandering around the neighborhood, knocking randomly on doors of fellow Cebuanos telling them: “Wake up, why are you NOT watching the World Cup?!”

Meanwhile in the rest of the world, football is highly celebrated. It was Brazilian football legend Pele who popularized the phrase “the beautiful game” and made it synonymous with football. So, what’s so beautiful with a sport that features 11 players on each team running around in a large field and kicking a ball? What makes presidents and kings of countries that have qualified in the FIFA World Cup follow and watch their respective teams play?

The FIFA World Cup is akin to a battlefield with 4 billion spectators, but without the piercing, shooting, and the killing. Its players are like modern-day gladiators whose mission is bound with so much national pride and unity.

And there’s more to the game than kicking a ball into a net. The football field is one large canvas or stage. “It has, at its pinnacle, an aesthetic dimension –it is not just a game, but an art,” writes Jason Farago of

Yesterday’s match between Brazil and Switzerland, for example, was a classic showcase of the loose yet intricate and sensuous fluidity of the Latin American style pitted against the clinical and disciplined play of teams from Europe.

Ever a fan of Brazilian football, I marvel at the beauty of “the natural rhythm of a continent that infests their soccer.” Writes one football observer: “It follows, almost, that from these lands of the lambada, the tango, the samba, the salsa, this passion for music and dance, this natural grace and chic movement, is carried into soccer. It is, one presumes, as it is most sophisticated, an expression of a people.”


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