THE great Brazilian footballer Pele is often credited with coining the phrase "the beautiful game", and his image will be evoked by many as the World Cup kicks off in Sao Paulo tonight.

Unfortunately, though, the build-up to this tournament has been anything but beautiful. There have been demonstrations and riots protesting about the grinding poverty that afflicts a country that has spent £5.6 billion on hosting this spectacle, and at least eight people have lost their lives in the construction of new stadia.

For the next 32 days, however, one billion people across the globe will be tuning into the action on the field, and thoughts of pitting profligacy against penury in a game of political football will be temporarily kicked into touch.

Loading article content

Fifa, despite being mired in allegations of corruption, has done sterling work in using soccer as a weapon in the fight against racism, and it is to be hoped that Pele's description of the sport will be seen to be valid. We are, thankfully, promised a crackdown on diving and on players who feign injury. If that can be achieved, we will all be winners.

On behalf of the sadly absent Tartan Army, we can only say: here we go, here we go ...