There has never been a football World Cup like the one reaching its conclusion in Japan and South Korea now. Senegal’s victory over champions France on day one sent aftershocks which were felt all the way to the final stages of the tournament.While everyone delights in watching underdogs triumph, it would appear that the 2002 Cup has room only for underdogs. Favourites met with swift ends and European powers were on the run – protesting all the while that they were badly done in by referees, the weather, unfair odds. The truth is they have been outpaced and outplayed.The 2002 World Cup will always have special resonance for us in India. We can take vicarious joy in watching Asian teams hold their own against established giants of the game. The stories of South Korean and Japanese success come not only in expected areas, like the organisation of an efficient, hooliganism-free World Cup, but on the field as well.What is most remarkable is that both countries, eastern economic powers, have turned into soccer nations not to be trifled with. This after South Korea’s efforts in five previous World Cups did not produce a single win, and after Japan started its professional soccer league only a decade ago.Our cover story this week is written by arguably the world’s finest football writer, Rob Hughes, who has covered the sport for more than three decades. Hughes believes that by bringing the tournament to Asia, football has liberated itself from the old order and that the playing field is well and truly level.The underdogs have performed this miracle through nothing more miraculous than meticulous planning and single-minded perseverance. Money has been judiciously spent and no excuses – backwardness, poverty or the lack of a footballing heritage – have been made.Indian sport does the opposite. A billion people and no global dominance in any sport. We should draw inspiration from the events at the World Cup 2002.
‘2002 World Cup will always have special resonance for us in India’