Six times when the 2018 FIFA World Cup made news outside the pitch stories that caught us offside.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup reached its culmination with Didier Deschamps’ Les Bleus routing the Croatian side 4-2. This edition of the tournament had its share of extraordinary moments on the field. Right from the first match when Russia scored five goals past a hapless Saudi Arabia to the finals. The 2018 edition will also be known for upsets with reigning champions Germany exiting in the group stage. But the drama was not restricted to the field. Here are six times when the tournament made news outside the football pitch.
Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović won the internet with her with her victory dance with the national team. She also made a surprise visit to the locker room to congratulate the players after their win over Russia in the quarter-finals. A huge football fan, she was dressed in the Croatian jersey and cheered for the team in the finals. She also braved the pouring rain at the presentation ceremony to console the team. Videos and pictures of her broke out on social media, and she won the hearts of football fans.
The Japanese follow a ritual called ōsōji (big cleanup) at the end of the year. Japanese fans observed this in Russia and cleaned up the stands after their group stage matches. Even after their heartbreaking loss to Belgium, fans stayed back and helped tidy up the stands. Videos of them helping out went viral and won them immense respect. The national team also cleaned their locker room, and they even left a note of thanks in Russian for the hosts.
French 19-year-old phenomenon Kylian Mbappé was the break-out star of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He scored his first goal against Peru and followed it up with two more against Argentina. His goal in the last match made him the youngest player since Pelé to score in a World Cup final. Mbappé will donate his winnings to the Premiers de Cordée, a charity that gives free sports training to disabled children. He has been supporting the charity since 2017, and his latest generous gesture has won hearts everywhere.
This FIFA World Cup saw the debut of the Video Assistant Referee system (VAR). The VAR team has the video assistant referee and three assistants. It can be used to award goals, confirm red card decisions, penalty and to clarify mistaken identity. However, the on-field referee takes the final call on these matters. Although opinions are divided about the usage of the technology, many players and sports aficionados welcomed it.
What does Croatian striker Nikola Kalinić have in common with Diego Maradona, Roy Keane and Nicolas Anelka? All these players were sent home during the FIFA World Cups. Kalinić, the latest offender, had to exit after he refused to come on as a substitute against Nigeria. In his absence, the Croatian team punched above their weight and reached the finals. Spain manager Julen Lopetegui Argote was sacked after news broke of his new assignment. He was chosen as coach of Real Madrid after the World Cup which led to his immediate dismissal
The Egyptian team qualified for their third World Cup thanks to the heroics of Mohamed Salah. The team’s goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary made history as the oldest player to ever take the field. El-Hadary’s daughter was engaged to fellow player Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim. Sadly, the engagement did not survive as it was discovered that Abdel-Moneim was already engaged. No doubt this family drama would have led to incredible tension within the Egyptian dressing room.