The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off tonight in Soweto / Johannesburg with a star-studded concert televised to billions of spectators in all four corners of the world.
A far cry from 1966, when FIFA officials caused a stir by announcing that the draw for the competition was to be televised live from the Royal Garden Hotel in London.
Yes, football has evolved a lot since then.
This can be attributed to several factors: Technological advances meaning that all games will be televised throughout the world, sports science insight which has enhanced the physical and mental preparation each team undertakes, changes in the laws of the game which have detracted from the physical aspects of the sports, and the financial factors which have changed the face of a multi-billion dollar industry.
One aspect which hasn't changed much, however, is the capability of the football World Cup to shock, excite, and inspire. After all, it is still a sport, and as such, a form of entertainment.
Many ex-professionals would argue that the global exposure to which football has been subjected and the financial parameters within which football operates have detracted from the game. They would argue that there are not as many characters which can truly make this year's tournament stand out from the others.
I beg to differ.
My proof is in the quotes below from players, coaches and pundits alike which have dominated international sporting press in the lead-up to the four-week tournament, quotes which show how much is riding on the outcome of the event and which express the concerns which many share ahead of tomorrow's opening match in Soccer City which will see hosts South Africa take on Mexico.
Enjoy the mayhem!
''If we win the World Cup, I'll get naked and run around the city's Obelisk'' (millions around the world are praying that Diego Maradona doesn't get his wish so that they can avoid his moobs haunting them forever)
''The players will be able to have sex during the World Cup, but with their regular partners and without champagne or other drinks'' (John Terry and Ashley Cole must be glad they were not born in Argentina)
''Rooney insulted me, he said F*** you'. He must learn to control his temper'' (South African referee Jeff Selogilwe exposes Wayne Rooney's achilles heel after the England striker's booking for dissent this week in a warm-up match)
''Even a street lamp would have seen that Franck was a very good player, but you had to watch him like a pan of milk on the boil. He was a kid who had grown up on the street'' (it seems that, like Wayne Rooney, scarfaced French star Franck Ribery is somewhat of a loose cannon, according to his youth coach)
''For my own sake, it's a good job that I chose football. If not, perhaps I'd be stealing or drug-trackiffing'' (an important reminder from Chilean international Gary Medel that football can change lives)
''It's a weaker England team without Rio. The U.S. definitely has a chance to upset the England party'' (USA Today voices Americans' optimism ahead of Saturday's opener against the Three Lions)
''I told him that we absolutely unreservedly stand by him. He is a member of the family. I ask everyone not to drag him into this'' (Germany coach Joachim Loew takes defender Jerome Boateng out of the line fire after half-brother and Ghanaian international Kevin-Prince made his mark on captain Michael Ballack)
''It's terrible...like a ball you'd buy in a supermarket'' (the perfectly round Adidas Jabulani football to be used in the tournament is met with great disapproval by the best goalkeeper in the world, Brazil's Julio Cesar)
''Our police officers are being trained by the American police to combat chemical, biological and nuclear attacks'' (and I thought it was supposed to be a football World Cup not a nuclear holocaust!)
''South Africa has come alive, and will never be the same after this World Cup'' (host nation president Jacob Zuma hopes that the tournament can replicate the spirit in which the 1995 rugby World Cup was played out in the aftermath of apartheid)