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Why the World Cup Mattered

International sporting events have long managed to transcend geopolitical feuds and animosities, and this year's World Cup in Russia was no exception. The tournament showed that openness, tolerance, and cooperation can be more powerful than chauvinism, populism, and strident forms of nationalism.

PARIS – The seventeenth-century philosopher and satirist Jean de La Bruyère once quipped that, “Corneille portrays men as they should be, Racine depicts them as they are.” For Europeans, and even more so for the French, the 2018 World Cup was a Corneillian event. The month-long soccer tournament in Russia offered an enchanted respite from a tumultuous world and revealed the better angels of our nature.

In the counter-reality of the tournament, a mood of self-confidence, altruism, and openness to the “other” prevailed. At least for a while, the chauvinism, alienation, and despair that have dominated this era of populist nationalism seemed to be forgotten.

Geographically speaking, all four of the semifinalists – France, Croatia, Belgium, and England – hailed from the Old Continent. Denounce Europe for its supposed weakness and decadence all you want. When it comes to the world’s most popular sport, Europe is king.

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