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Stories of football

The recent FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada wrote another memorable chapter in the history of football, offering yet more signs of the rosy future that the game can look forward to at youth level. Argentina were ultimately celebrating thanks to a thoroughly deserved sixth world title in the U-20 age group and many of the other teams taking part in the tournament had reason to be proud of the top-class performances they produced.
The personal success story of Sergio Aguero was unparalleled. The Atletico Madrid striker’s starring role in his team’s successful defence of the title was rewarded with the adidas Golden Shoe as the tournament’s top goalscorer and the adidas Golden Ball as its best player. Moreover, one of the dead-eyed Argentinian’s six goals was voted goal of the tournament in a fan poll on FIFA.com. He and his teammates will now be hoping that they can go on to reproduce their success with the full national team and this year’s U-20 triumph will certainly not have done any harm to their chances of being called up and handed the opportunity to do just that.
Aguero’s thoughts will inevitably already be wandering towards 2010, when the football world has a high-profile rendezvous in South Africa. On a recent trip to the land of the Cape of Good Hope, I saw with my own eyes how energetically and professionally work is progressing to ensure everything is in place for the historic event in three years’ time.
An even more dramatic past that has influenced the destiny of so many individuals is inextricably linked with the story of the FIFA World Cup™. During the decades he spent incarcerated on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela, who devoted himself to the abolition of apartheid and later, as a pioneering president of his nation, led South Africa into a new era, found solace and distraction in playing football with his fellow freedom fighters. The prisoners even set up their own association, the Makana FA. FIFA made a special award to the association in July, shortly before an exhibition match between Africa and the Rest of the World in honour of “Madiba”, as Mandela is affectionately known among his countrymen, that was played at Cape Town’s Newlands Stadium. The former captives’ evocative recollections brought epic football matches and countless other stories to life and underlined how the game promoted values like tolerance, inclusiveness, reconciliation, honesty and harmony.
Two weeks later, on 31 July, the Brazilian football association officially submitted its bid to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup™’. With seven years to go until those finals, where Aguero and his contemporaries could well play major roles, record-breaking Brazilian striker Romario and the internationally acclaimed author and well-known football fan, Paulo Coelho, completed the first chapter of that story during a hand-over ceremony at the Home of FIFA in Zurich.
A match, a league championship or a season might end when the final whistle is blown, but the next kick-off is always just around the corner. Against this background of constant renewal, the essence of football — in other words, the unpredictable results, the elation of victory and the anguish of defeat – remains constant. In keeping with FIFA’s slogan of “For the Game. For the World”, football’s ability to write new stories will no doubt continue unabated long into the future.