In the run-up to the climax of the World Cup on July 11 in Johannesburg, with the field of teams inexorably reducing to finalists Netherlands and Spain, there was at last time between matches to start assessing the tournament’s global impact.
This was, after all, the first World Cup of the Facebook and Twitter age. Even YouTube was just a year old when Italy defeated France in the ill-tempered final of the last World Cup, in 2006. This time, the global audience consumed the World Cup – already the planet’s most popular and obsessively-watched sports event – in the most dense, real-time, multilingual, multimedia manner we have ever known.
And what we consumed extended far beyond events on the field: beyond ignominious first-round exits by Italy and France; beyond the blond ‘do and pinpoint strikes of Japan’s Keisuke Honda; beyond the imperious beatdowns a young, multiethnic Germany put on highly-touted England and Argentina; beyond the hands of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez illegally stopping Ghana’s late game-winner, and Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan tragically missing the ensuing penalty kick; beyond referee errors, goalkeeper heroics, 0-0 draws, and every glorious moment when the Jabulani ball, supposedly the sleekest and roundest ever made, was struck, tapped, stroked, headed or smashed into the back of the net.