“Football is an honest game. It’s true to life. It’s a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life!” – Joe Namath
It’s judgement day tomorrow! We have finally reached the final frontier of a sports phenomenon that has grabbed the attention of the world for the past month. It’s the FIFA World Cup 2018! A time when the whole world rallies around their favourite football teams and supports them towards one common goal. The goal to win the Football Worldcup! After a series of some unbelievably entertaining games and some surprising hits and misses, we are now looking at an exciting finale between France and Croatia. The playoffs which will happen tonight (7.30 pm IST) will determine the third-place champions between Belgium and England. But all in all, it has been a marvellous football tournament! Russia played the perfect host and showed the world that there is so much more to the country than just potatoes and vodka. Teams like Japan set an example in front of the whole world when they left behind a spotlessly clean locker room and a ‘Thank You’ note to their hosts in the Russian language!
We were discussing the impact that Football as a game and FIFA as an international sporting event has on the individual countries participating in it. While India may look at the game as an entertaining sporting event, it does not necessarily mean the same for other countries who are part of FIFA. A colleague’s friend in Belgium commented that World Cup for them literally meant the world. For the first time, in a very long time, Belgium had managed to reach the semi-finals and it was a matter of immense pride and enormous potential for the country. Suddenly, Belgium was in the spotlight and people were looking at the country from a different perspective. People who considered Belgium to be just a transit destination between France and Germany were now sitting back and taking notice of this beautiful country. This meant a lot for the tourism, education, revenue and many other aspects of the country. For someone who is part of the FIFA countries, the games surely means a lot!
When we looked at the 32 participating teams of FIFA this year, we realized that our tours go to 17 countries out of them. This is when we realized the importance and impact of the FIFA games on travel and tourism, as well. Participating and playing in these games is a matter of great honour and pride for these countries and in turn, the games contribute a whole lot towards the popularity and growth of tourism in these countries. It’s a win-win situation for both; the FIFA games and the countries participating in them!
Let’s introduce you to the 17 countries that are proud teams of the FIFA World Cup 2018 and splendid travel destinations of Veena World:
The legacy of Pharaohs has such an impact on the game of Football in Egypt that even their national team is nicknamed ‘The Pharaohs’ (monarchs/kings of ancient Egypt). Egypt is the best football team in the African continent and Football, undoubtedly, is the most popular and main sport of the country. You have to travel atleast once to the ‘Land of Mummies’ to explore its many wonders and to truly understand what separates this mysterious land from the others. When you explore this desert land, you will be pleasantly surprised by the astounding history, ancient dynasties, deep-rooted culture and the impact they have on modern Egypt. Explore the cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Abu Simel, Aswan, Kom Ombo, Edfu, Luxor and truly experience the beauty of the Nile River, when you step foot into this land. FIFA 2018 is the third appearance for ‘The Pharaohs’ in a Football World Cup tournament, but this strong team surely has a long way to go!
Fun Football Fact: Egypt is the most popular football playing country in Africa and has won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), a record 7 number of times. However, they have appeared in the FIFA tournaments only thrice (including 2018) and have yet to win the World Cup for their country.
Football or Soccer as it is known in Australia is a much-loved and extensively-played sport in the country! The Land Down Under also has a slightly different version of the game known as ‘Australia Rules Football’ or ‘Aussie Rules’ or ‘Footy’ which is a contact sport played between 2 teams of 18 players each. For the World Cup this year, they had to undergo a long and arduous 22-match qualifying campaign before they set out to Russia to play in the championship games. Defeat doesn’t mean the end of the world for the Socceroos as they show the will, determination and ability to perform better in future games! This huge country is a cornucopia of sightseeing wonders and remarkable cities. There are fantastic things to do and amazing experiences to have in this splendid country! Right from the spectacular Sydney Opera House to the mesmerizing ‘Great Barrier Reef’ and from the cityscapes of culture-driven Melbourne to the sun ‘n’ sands of Gold Coast, Australia is a destination you would want to visit over and over again…
Fun Football Fact: Tim Cahill is the most well-known player of the Australia National Football Team or as they are officially nicknamed ‘Socceroos’. At the age of 32, he is still their star player who has scored 45% of Australia’s goals at World Cups.
Iceland is the smallest nation to ever compete in the FIFA World Cup! It may be the smallest nation but their grit, determination and their fan base rival some of the biggest football nations in the world. The Iceland National Football Teams (both men & women) have reached new heights over the past few years. Their confidence and game skills have only increased with each passing game as they are on their way to becoming one of the most formidable teams in the world of football. Equally interesting is the meteoric rise of Iceland as a tourist destination. Iceland is one of the most sought-after countries today when it comes to travel and the success of the national Football team also contributes a great deal in attracting the world towards the ‘Ice & Fire’ nation. Iceland is a dream-come-true destination with its spectacular waterfalls, breathtaking scenery, awe-inspiring glaciers and geysers along with a modern lifestyle that boasts of a progressive approach and negligible crime rate. Iceland has a lot more to offer on the world stage, be it travel or be it football! This is one country to watch out for…
Fun Football Fact: Particularly famous among the Icelandic people is ‘The Viking Clap’ which is a way for the fans and the players to connect with each other at the end of a match. The fans and the players clap their hands above their heads in unison to the beats of a drum. This is done as a celebration of Icelandic values and as an acknowledgement to the Icelandic football team to remind them of how far they’ve come!
The country that gave us football legends such as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi! Argentina is a beautiful country in the South American continent with the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. The country is a popular tourist destination with exquisite natural wonders, breathtaking landscapes, culture-rich cities and some marvellous heritage monuments. Travel to Argentina to witness the Perito Moreno Glacier – Universal Mankind’s Heritage by UNESCO and the magnificent Iguazu Falls. The country is also well-known for its rhythmic ‘Tango’ dance style and the vibrant city of Buenos Aires – the capital of Argentina and the most visited city in South America, known for its Spanish and European style of architecture. So what, if Argentina wasn’t able to make it to the finals, their legacy still remains solid and so does their game! Until next time, Argentina…
Fun Football Fact: Argentina is the only country to have featured in maximum World Cup penalty shootouts. They have been successful in 4 out 5 times in such situations.
They are known as the greatest force in world Football! FIFA World Cup 2014 and Confederation Cup winners, Germany have proven time and again why they are a force to reckon with when it comes to football. Although they were not able to replicate their World Cup win this year, it is well-known that the team focuses a lot on hard work and technique. The country’s passion lies in playing and coaching their team to the best of their abilities; a team which features homegrown players and where young blood is given the opportunity to shine! Germany has always been a popular country when it comes to tourism! The country has overcome all odds to become one of the most developed and progressive nations of the world. When you travel with Veena World to Germany, you get a chance to explore the cultural wealth of cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and natural wealth of destinations such as Black Forest, Alpirsbach and Baden Baden. So, get ready to discover the scenic delights of Germany and keep cheering for this amazing team in the upcoming seasons!
Fun Football Fact: No other nation has played more World Cup matches than Germany – 106 in total. As a result, the country has scored the most number of goals (124) and conceded the most goals (121) in the tournament.
“We will fight for beautiful memories!” This remarkable statement by Polish striker and star player, Robert Lewandowski is enough, to sum up, the kind of game that Poland intends to play not just for the World Cup but for all future championships or rather whenever they set foot in a stadium to play football. It goes on to show their fighting spirit and determination to play their best game, come what may! If you think about it, the statement holds true for the country of Poland as well. Recovering from the World War hardships was a tough task but the country sailed through and emerged as one of the most ambitious, energetic and modern countries in Europe. Today, travel and tourism in Poland is slowly picking up pace and tourists are warming up to the medieval charm of its cities. With Veena World, travelling to Poland is a treat as you explore the wonderful cities of Krakow and Warsaw. The salt mines of Wieliczka, concentration camps of Auschwitz and the ‘Phoenix City’ of Warsaw offer an insight into the country of Poland, like no other! Watch out for the country that emerged from its ashes and cheer for the team that plays with all its heart…
Fun Football Fact: The captain and star performer of the Poland National Football Team is Robert Lewandowski who scored a record-breaking 16 goals that enabled Poland to qualify for the World Cup tournament.
Football was introduced in Denmark by British sailors. Today, it is the national sport of the country and one of the most popular sports played here with almost 300,000 players and 1614 clubs registered with the Danish Football Association. Travel wise, this Scandinavian country is a treat to the eyes and senses! With their cultural roots in the Viking civilization, Denmark has developed as one of the most modern, prosperous and progressive countries of the world. You find well-preserved cultural heritage alongside a legendary style of design and architecture! Denmark is where you can discover the amazing city delights of Copenhagen, the capital city. Explore the picturesque city with its colourful harbour-front and enjoy iconic monuments such as the ‘Little Mermaid’ statue, Tivoli Gardens and Christiansborg Palace. Like the country, the Danish football team also plays to its strengths and has a very direct and true style of playing the game. With such an honest approach to the game, we are sure to see Denmark progressing leaps and bounds in the near football future!
Fun Football Fact: Denmark is a country where you will find ‘Roligans’ – fans of the Danish National Football Team who support, celebrate and cheer for the team in a well-mannered and calm way. The word ‘rolig’ in Danish means ‘calm’ and the ‘Roligans’ are well-known for being the exact opposite of hooligans.
Where Football is a religion! If Football is born in England, bred in Brazil, then it is respected and revered as a religion in Spain. The former World Cup champions have been members of FIFA since its inception in 1904 and have participated in a total of 15 of 21 FIFA World Cups. Their remarkable success in tournaments such as Confederation Cup, UEFA Championship, Olympic Games and the World Cup have been due to their consistent efforts and direct style of play. Spain as a country is equally heart-warming and vibrant with gregarious locals who look forward to welcoming you to their country! The architecturally brilliant and culture-rich cities of Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, Cordoba and Valencia offer an insight into ‘España’ like no other! When you travel with Veena World, you also get to enjoy the world’s biggest food fight – La Tomatina at Buñol, an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for a long time. Like the Spanish football team, the country is hard-working and direct when it comes to mutual respect and hospitality. Be a part of this Spanish adventure and keep cheering for ‘La Roja’ (The Red One)!
Fun Football Fact: The Spanish Football Team or ‘La Roja’ as they are officially nicknamed, have a distinctive style of playing known as ‘Tiki Taka’. This style of playing is characterized by short passes, maintaining possession and working the ball through various channels. Many believe that this technique is the reason for the team’s success in recent years.
World-class etiquettes and true sportsmanship is what Japanese Football is all about! Sure, Japan lost their game to Belgium and had to head back quite early in the tournament but not before teaching the world a lesson in humility and gratitude. The Japan National Football Team, after their heartbreaking loss to Belgium, bowed to their fans and supporters in the stadium. They also spotlessly cleaned up their locker rooms and left a ‘Thank You’ note for their hosts, in the Russian language. Not just the team, even the fans and supporters waited back after the game to clean up the stadium. That’s Japan for you! A country that has emerged like a phoenix from several natural calamities to become one of the most technologically advanced and developed countries of all time. They have a strong hold on their ancient heritage and cultural roots are wide-spread in almost every aspect of their life, right from food to spirituality. Veena World gives you the opportunity to explore the land of the rising sun in all its glory! Visit cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara and admire the majestic Mount Fuji along with the splendid cherry blossoms in the country. Let’s learn a thing or two from Japan and discover this wonderful country…
Fun Football Fact: The Japanese National Soccer Team is nicknamed, ‘Blue Samurais’ but their emblem features a giant black three-legged crow called ‘Yata-garasu’. The black crow is a symbol of Japan and is deeply connected to one of the most pivotal episodes in Japan’s classic mythology.
The team that thrives on confidence and discipline! The Switzerland National Football Team are yet to deliver a world-class winning performance but their growth chart has been incredible with the team itself displaying all the markings of a successful football team in the future of the game. Their style of playing has progressed from a complacent attitude to an attacking and possession-based approach that has helped them achieve success in recent years. Tourism in Switzerland has been popular for a very long time! When you think about Switzerland, you get the picture-perfect image of a breathtaking landscape with snow-capped mountains, lush green meadows and a sapphire blue lake shining in the midst of such magnificent scenery. And that’s exactly what Switzerland is all about! Stunning landscapes dot the country and cities such as Lucerne, Engelberg, Interlaken, Bern, Geneva and Zurich offer delights that transport you to a fairytale land instantly. Experience the ‘Top of Europe’ at Jungfraujoch and live the best moments of your life at this splendid destination!
Fun Football Fact: The Swiss hold an unwanted World Cup record wherein they lost a match to Ukraine in the 2006 World Cup by not scoring any of their goals in the penalty shootout. This despite not conceding a single goal throughout the entire tournament.
Football is in their blood! Football is the most popular sport in Brazil and an integral part of the nation’s identity. The largest country in the South American continent, Brazil is blessed with great geographical diversity, rich heritage and a profound yet vibrant culture. Travel to this amazing country and immerse in the wilderness of the Amazon Rainforest, explore the thriving cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Manaus and experience the extravagance of the Rio Carnival. The country is also home to some spectacular scenic landscapes and the amazing wonder of the world – Christ the Redeemer. A country that is well-known for its football tradition and sporting legends such as Pele, Garrincha, Zico, Cafu, Ronaldinho and Neymar, has carved the way for many dreamers to indulge in this fantastic sport and take their nation to glory! (Brazil has won the coveted championship 5 times; the most of any teams). Brazil was also one of the favourites, expected to enter the championship finale; however, you win some, you lose some… Brazil never does let go of its fighting spirit and truly shows the world what the game of Football is all about!
Fun Football Fact: Pele has nicknamed Football as ‘Jogo Bonito’ which means ‘beautiful game’. Interestingly enough, Brazil is also the team that holds the record for the maximum number of red card instances in the history of the competition.
Russia was granted the right to host the FIFA World Cup on 2nd December 2010, for the first time in its history, after a bid submitted by the Russian Football Union to FIFA in early 2009. As hosts of FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia automatically qualified for the tournament and played to the best of their abilities before being defeated by Croatia in the quarterfinals. It was definitely a dream-run for the Sbornaya (national team in Russian) who haven’t progressed up to this stage in all of their 10 World Cup appearances till date, since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The host country showed the world that it was the largest country in the world not just in terms of size but also in terms of infrastructure, the way of living, technology and most importantly, hospitality. One of the major reasons why the country opened its arms wide and welcomed the whole world to the amazing football spectacle. Everyone who visited the country raved about its cities, art scenes, cultural roots, lifestyle, monuments and of course, its people! The sights and sounds Of Moscow and St. Petersburg opened doors for tourism and the world took notice of this big country with an even bigger heart…
Fun Football Fact: The use of bold colours such as red, gold, black and blue in the official emblem of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 is a tribute to the centuries-old techniques observed in Russian art that dates back to the earliest icon paintings.
Hard work is the symbol of this team! The Swedish National Football Team and their coach give a lot of importance to teamwork, perseverance, manners and above all, respect. The team believe that they are part of something much bigger than themselves and hence, humility and respect is the key. Sweden have done fairly well at matches, having reached the finals and semi-finals on a number of occasions, but they are still to win the coveted FIFA World Cup title. With values and principles that not just reflect in the team but also in their game, the Swedish team are here to stay for a long in the international football scene. This Scandinavian country is what you would call a pristine natural beauty! With an incredible Viking history and influence of the unique Sami culture, Sweden is one of the most aesthetically pleasing and colourful countries in the world. Be it the charming city delights of the capital city, Stockholm or the mesmerizing phenomenon of Northern Lights at Abisko, the insight into the Sami culture at Kiruna or the sheer beauty of the Swedish Laplands, this country has a lot of incredible experiences and unforgettable memories to offer…
Fun Football Fact: The ‘Swedish Ball League’ was one of the 7 countries involved in the foundation of FIFA in 1904. In 1906, they were officially given the name of ‘Swedish Football Association’.
A surprise entry in the World Cup semifinals! It wouldn’t be wrong to call Belgium, a country with a sweet-tooth as it is known around the world for its divine Belgian chocolates and heavenly Belgian waffles. Belgium is known for its eccentric yet stereotypical medieval towns, historically enriching Renaissance architecture and for the glorious headquarters of the European Union and NATO. Visit the city of Bruges to explore its remarkable cobble-stoned streets and wonderful tree-lined canals. Get a chance to visit one of Western Europe’s oldest breweries – De Halve Maan Brewery and enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride that will take you through the beautiful sights of the city. Brussels is where you can experience the capital city in all its glory! Stroll through the Grand Place and witness the much-talked Belgian monuments of The Atomium and Mannekin Pis. Belgium will be vying for a third place in the FIFA championship today! So, watch out for this beautiful country and surely make it a part of your travel plans with Veena World…
Fun Football Fact: Belgium made it to the semi-final for the second time in their history, since 1986, making Vincent Kompany the only player in the whole squad to be born before the semi-final appearance.
The birth country of Football! England and Football go a long way back to determine the origin of this sport. The country introduced the world to leagues, football clubs and along with Scotland share the honour of having the oldest football teams in the world. England had a pretty good run at the World Cup this time and managed to reach the semi-finals where they were defeated by crowd-favourites, Croatia. Nevertheless, England still has a chance at third-place champions when they face Belgium in the play-off match today evening (7.30 pm IST). England has been a very prominent tourist destination and some say, it even acts as a window between the east and the west. A charming country to visit anytime, England is well-known for its royal heritage, splendid monuments, breathtaking country landscapes and a colonial culture that has influenced several nations. With Veena World, get a chance to explore cities such as London, Bath, Windsor, Oxford and witness the royal charm for yourself!
Fun Football Fact: England and Scotland are the two oldest football national teams in the world. Both countries formed their football teams in 1870 to play a match against each other which ended in a draw at the Oval stadium in Kennington.
France Football Finalists! It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? France is one of our World Cup finalists and one of the strong contenders to win the World Cup tomorrow. If the French win the championship tomorrow, they will be taking home the cup after 20 long years, a feat they had previously achieved on their home soil in World Cup 1998. France is a team that is built from players belonging to multiple ethnicities and backgrounds. Winning for them is a matter of pride and honour as they look forward to winning on the home front which has helped hone their skills and game, over the years. France is an equally delightful country when it comes to travel and tourism. No other European country has managed to grasp the attention of travellers and retain it for as long as France has! With spectacular monuments such as The Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe and cultural icons such as the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre Museum, the capital city of Paris mesmerizes one and all. Discover the sheer joy of Disneyland in Paris or simply revel in the charm of the French Riviera. It doesn’t matter if you are a travel enthusiast or a Football fanatic, France will surely pique your interest and keep you wanting for more!
Fun Football Fact: The France Football National Team is popularly known as ‘Les Bleus’ (The Blues). They have won 1 FIFA World Cup, 2 UEFA European Championships, 1 Olympic tournament and 2 FIFA Confederation Cups. Coincidentally, the French football team, controlled by the FFF (French Football Federation) was found in the same year as FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) i.e. 1904.
The dark horse of the FIFA World Cup 2018! This spectacular island in Eastern Europe is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Dinaric Alps on the other. The country has a unique medieval charm about itself and has spent the past decade, becoming Europe’s fastest-rising holiday destination. Today, Croatia is among the top 20 most popular tourist destinations in the whole world. Thanks to the Mediterranean charm of its cities, the sunny days that the country experiences for the most part of the year, the exquisite sapphire blue coastline, Renaissance-inspired architecture, the splendid bio-diversity of its national parks and the picturesque locations popularized by the fantasy show, ‘Game of Thrones’. Croatia is a picture-perfect destination that combines the natural beauty and enchanting charm of Europe! Experience the famous ‘Plitvice Lakes National Parks’ for a stunning encounter with nature and fall in love with the quaint capital city of Zagreb, when you visit this incredible country. Croatia was a definite surprise entry into the finals and because of their go-getter attitude, they are considered to be the hot-favourites to win this championship. All we can say is… All the Best Croatia! May the best team win!
Fun Football Fact: Croatia’s greatest football achievement before FIFA World Cup 2018, has been entering the semi-finals of the championship in 1998. Coincidentally, they were knocked out by the French team in that match and this year, they have a chance to take revenge!
When you think about it, Football is not just limited to a sport! It has the power and ability to bring the whole world together in the spirit of the game. People cross borders and travel for the sake of a football game! The host country invariably witnesses an influx of tourists during this time. This leads to an increase in revenue, tourism and offers an insight into the culture and lifestyle of the host country. Strangers become friends in a foreign country as football fans from around the world celebrate the win (or sometimes even the loss) of their favourite teams. FIFA has 32 participating countries but people from across the globe support and cheer their favourite players and teams, irrespective of which country they belong to! That’s the magic of Football…
So, gear up for another exciting final tomorrow and cheer for your favourites… May the best team win!
*Information Source – fifa.com, mirror.co.uk, skysports.com, midday.com, indiatoday.in, wikipedia.com, dnaindia.in, telegraph.co.uk, bbc.com, firstpost.com
*Feature Image Courtesy – fifa.com