Popular Culture and the World Cup

Popular culture is defined in sociology as referring to the accumulation of cultural products that are consumed by majority of the population and provide mass accessibility, commentary on and inform public discourse. Such products may be in the form of: music, art, literature, fashion, dance, film, cyber culture and television. In this paper, features of the world cup in its entirety will be discussed and evidence given to support the thesis that the world cup occupies a significant position in popular culture and is present in all its  domains as listed above that define pop culture.


Before the commencement of any world cup, a significant number of songwriters, musicians and composers make albeit desperate attempts to compose songs that will eventually turn out to be popular world cup hymns. Some of the music, featuring elaborate dance styles and performances becomes a worldwide sensation and inform the emotion invoked when fans recall particular world cup events. Popular hymns such as “Waka Waka” by Shakira, “We are one” by Pitbull featuring Jenifer Lopez during the 2010 world cup in South Africa, “Time of our lives” by Ahmed Chawki, “Live it up” by Nicky Jam featuring Will smith and Era istrefi and more recently “colors” by Jason derulo, Maluma, Qural-ul-Ain Baluoch as well as “United by love” by Natalia oreiro in the 2018 world cup in Russia.

The fifa world cup inspires numerous canvas prints, framed prints, posters, metal prints, Acrylic prints, wood prints, greeting cards, phone cases, throw pillows and it is during the world cup season the football inspired art enjoys the most commercial success. Many artistic tributes to the biggest players of the tournament in the form of murals come up almost overnight worldwide as fans take to the street and express their love for the game using art. Moreover, Football in itself can also be considered as art as the players’ individual movements can be balletic, routines tastefully and exquisitely choreographed as grand narratives seem to unfold almost effortlessly with their culmination in unlikely victories and tragedies featuring static heroes and villains as well as players that seem to migrate between the boundaries of hero and villain.

The world cup also informs the kind of literature that will come up from both professional and amateur lovers of the game. As some individuals take to the streets to paint murals of the players, others compose music, others choose to write about it.  A significant and expectable dose of player hagiographies are found as one traverses the streets of Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Mexico City. Furthermore, many players are inspired to write in praise of the glory of football as well as in lamentation of the heartache caused by expectation and defeat. As a commercial for the museum of soccer in Sao Paulo put it “If soccer were a literary genre, it would be poetry.” The Italian poet, Umberto Saba allowed his readers a glimpse in to Mussolini’s Italy through his poem “Goal” during the 1934 world cup. In his work he wrote about the pleasures and dangers of collective effervescence and provided a slate upon which the world could inscribe its hope, desires, hatreds and love and transformed these emotions in to something more concrete that either becomes illuminated and darkened by the outcome of the game. Much of the literature does not aim to depict the game as is, but to serve as a frame through which global issues can be observed.

Apart from the expected official world cup film produced after every world cup to tell a story of seething emotion, passion and to take the viewer closer that any spectator could have ever come, there are also classic films inspired by football such as; “Bend it like Beckham” released in 2002, “Damned united” released in 2009, “Escape to victory” released in 1981, “Fever pitch” released in 1997, “Mean machine” released in 2001 and many other films that have occupied a focal point in popular culture and the discourse that surrounds it.

Cyber culture refers to the social conditions that are brought about by the use of computer for communication, entertainment and business. Numerous articles, blog posts, You tube videos, pictures on social media, commentaries, questions and opinions posted on microblogs, venting of emotion and a worldwide display of enthusiasm characterize the social scene during the world cup and inform tremendously on cyber culture during that time.

The world cup was first broadcasted on Television in 1954. Since then, it has become the most widely viewed televised event in history with most world cup tournaments attracting hundreds of millions of viewers comprising more that 10% of the total worldwide population.   FIFA has given world cup broadcasting rights to major television networks in almost all the countries in all continents of the world. Scenarios where fan gather around a television sets for the entire duration of the world cup are not uncommon with major advertising brands advocating for these kind of event all the while adding the sensation of the world cup season.

The world cup also brings out a great surge in appetite for football inspired fashion with searches seeing significant increase in the months prior to and during the tournament. Popular searches before and during the 2018 world cup such as; vintage inspired trends including USSR and German mesh dresses manufactured by Adidas, football scarves and embellished football shirts by Koche. Major fashion houses such as Versace and Louis Vuitton as well as social media influencers play a significantly role in championing for football inspired fashion during the preceding fashion weeks in anticipation of commercial success as many fans rush to purchase these tastefully designed symbols of loyalty to their favorite superstars and countries.

To conclude, it is easy to deduce from this discussion that the FIFA world cup occupies a focal point in the popular culture scene, informs on public discourse and provides for mass accessibility for a majority of the worldwide population. This is clearly demonstrated by its influence on the music, art, literature, cyber culture, television and fashion.

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