Football: the allegiance that knows no boundaries

Brazil has proved the ideal setting for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but even countries that are not competing have eagerly taken up the status of viewer, providing areas where football fans can commune and be captivated

Two weeks into the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 32 competing countries have experienced the usual mix of joyous highs and desperate lows. As the tournament gets ready for its knockout stage, we have seen Dutch delight, surprise success for Costa Rica and Greece, and pain for Spain and fellow heavyweights England and Italy. By the end of Thursday’s action, half the teams will already be on their way home, dreams of glory put on hold for another four years.

Brazil has so far proved the perfect setting for the global spectacle, with the vibrant and picturesque country living up to its billing as the home of the beautiful game. It has been helped by some electrifying football, goals galore (Tim Cahill’s volley for Australia will be hard to beat), superstars such as Arjen Robben, Lionel Messi and Neymar delivering on the biggest stage of all, and even novelties like the referees’ vanishing spray for free kicks adding to the appeal.

Brazil International Space Station
A view of Brazil from the International Space Station. NASA astronauts managed to watch a stream of the opening match between Brazil and Croatia

Those not lucky enough to be in Brazil have come up with their own inventive ways to follow their team. In Germany, second division side Union Berlin invited fans to bring their sofas to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei to follow proceedings on their 700-inch screen. Meanwhile, such was the demand in Ghana for their clash with the USA that the government had to ration electricity to ensure everyone could watch it.

The celebrations have by no means been restricted to the nations who made it to Brazil. Malaysia have never qualified for the tournament, but that hasn’t stopped World Cup fever engulfing the country. While restaurants enjoy a 24-hour boom from the live coverage in the middle of the night, some other businesses are far less enthusiastic. Bosses are so concerned about a drop in work-place productivity that the Malaysian Employers Federation has issued guidelines for staff to watch delayed telecasts of matches in their offices at the end of the working day.

Such was the demand in Ghana for their clash with the USA that the government had to ration electricity to ensure everyone could watch the game

In Dubai, hotels have been putting on events to satisfy the local demand. Giant screens, air-conditioned tents and live entertainment are just some of the features at venues across the Emirate. The Hilton Jumeirah has been transformed into a sea of colour with patrons asked to dress in their countries’ strips, while fans who missed any of the previous day’s games can watch them all – as well as the live matches – at the Brazil-themed Media One Hotel. Catching the action is not a problem either at Atlantis, The Palm, which has 13 big screens inside a specially erected World Cup tent.

Even those up in space have managed to stay tuned, with NASA astronauts watching a stream of the opening match between Brazil and Croatia from the International Space Station.

It truly is a competition for the whole world, or even the universe, and the best bit is there is still another fortnight to come.