With the World Cup come and gone, it’s natural to reminisce about its glory. France won the title, much to chagrin of a powerful Croatia. Their breadth and flexibility of skills also made them one of the more fruitfully consistent, and therefore dominant, teams of the tournament.
The French team reflects a multi-level diversity. Their skills and players are diverse and united. This variety is symbolic in a time when sentiments of separatism still feel palpable. Football* is a formidable unifier.
I have a slight affinity for hockey (ice) and enjoy the sheer power of the sport. Yet, I know it is not a sport that anyone can play. This is not because they can’t gain the skills, but rather, the resources needed to play it. Hockey is a resource-intensive sport, replete with multi-layered equipment and rigid playing conditions. This high resource dependency makes hockey inaccessible to most of the world, unlike football.
All you really need to play football is a floor and a ball. Yes, there are regulations in place at the highest levels, but at the most basic levels, the ones that children can naturally stumble into, football is a strikingly simple endeavour. Throughout different times and lands, football can be played with more accessibility than most sports. It’s no wonder that it is one of, if not the, most popular sport in the world.
Football’s high accessibility supports an increasing inclusiveness in the sport. Compare the roster of a hockey team with one of a football team and stark demographic differences can be found. Take Canada for example: though the country boasts a multicultural, multiethnic population, many Canadian hockey players don’t reflect that claim. Subban remains one of the sole, high-profile hockey player from a “minority background.”
Hockey is still an inaccessible sport for many, though it doesn’t need to remain so for long. If an emphasis on diversity is made, hockey could rise in the ranks of inclusion, despite the financial costs of play.
For now, however, football has the advantage of being a resource-friendly sport. The World Cup continually reminds us of why football is a world favourite: the world truly can play it.
*I am accustomed to the obscure term soccer but I feel it is more appropriate to use football here, especially when talking about the sport in an international context and under a competition title that uses the term. (Fun fact: soccer comes from the shortening of the term Association Football… makes sense…)