Here We Go – The World Cup

To those who read this blog for pop culture ramblings, I apologise for the lack of relevance to comics, cinema and comedy in this post. For the World Cup is upon us, and I had to mention it.

The World Cup is a huge event. When I talk about the World Cup, I don’t even think about adding ‘football’ to the title (or soccer, if you are American – I’m not one who gets in a twist about Americans calling the beautiful game soccer, as it is was used in the early days to describe the game in the UK, so it’s not really a big deal. The thing I don’t get is why American Football is so called, seeing how the game is spent mostly with the ball in the hands, only very rarely actually connecting with a foot. But never mind.)

I was working and living in the US during the last World Cup; even though America has a rather good side, there was no build-up to the tournament. The rest of the world goes crazy for the World Cup; it took the USA side winning some games for it to be mentioned in papers over there. Strangely, as the tournament proceeded and I wore my football-like t-shirts to work, people began to ask questions about it, and the non-Americans at work were already becoming more united due to the camaraderie of the game. Even more bizarrely, the American with whom I talked about the games the most was an 18-year-old female student, doing a placement course prior to going to college. She played the game, so understood the intricacies, but it was still an odd situation, having post-match discussions with her.

The World Cup is an excuse to revel in football and feel the spirit capturing the globe, as football-crazy supporters paint their faces, spend too much money for tickets and have the time of their lives (until they get knocked out in the first round). It is a magical feeling, a sensation linking all of us despite the problems in the world. Watching a great game, and the troubles melt away, if only for 90 minutes.

Watching the World Cup has been a special event that marks the passage of my life:

Espana 1982 – a boy about to become a teenager watches some fluent football, wanting to have a France–Italy final so that the two best teams could have the perfect final, only for a German keeper to ruin the dream, salvaged by Italy thumping the Germans in the final.

Mexico 1986 – a teenager doing his ‘O’ levels, but wanting to watch the World Cup instead, seeing Maradonna being brilliant and cheating at the same time, as Argentina go on to win the cup, and the world gets the Mexican wave.

Italia 1990 – at university, seeing David O’Leary score a penalty for the Republic of Ireland to take them to a quarter final with Italy, while England make the semi-finals, only to lose out on penalties, and Gazza crying, and the dull final between Germany and Argentina, settled by penalties, the theme of the tournament.

USA 1994 – post-graduate years, not being able to bunk off to watch all the games anymore, England not qualifying, Republic of Ireland beating Italy in the opening round, feeling that I am not a young man anymore.

France 1998 – working in a job, doing a sweepstake between colleagues, seeing England beaten by the old enemy Argentina on penalties and Beckham sent off, and Brazil collapsing in the final due to a sick Ronaldo, France finally winning the trophy they should have won in the 1980s with Platini.

Korea/Japan 2002 – getting up stupidly early to watch the games in a friend’s house with pay-per-view, going to work in a country that mostly didn’t get it, feeling a connection to my roots and the beautiful game again, with Korea playing amazingly, seeing England beat Argentina, but flopping to Brazil embarrassingly with no energy in the legs, who go on to win the tournament.

Now, Germany host the tournament, so I’ll be able to see the games easily (especially with the BBC to broadcast them over the net during work time, where I have a broadband connection), and hopefully watch quality games with beautiful goals and minimal negativity, to feel a country and a world united by the love of a stupid game involving 22 men kicking a ball around a piece of grass in glorious sunshine or dazzling floodlights, and cheering and singing and shouting and complaining. World Cup 2006 – bring it on!

To keep connected, FIFA have an ugly-looking official site here, but I’ll be keeping tabs at the BBC here, which does things with a bit more class. A note of warning – comics and films may suffer during the next month or so.

3 Comments

  • Greg 12 June 2006 at 5:13 pm

    Yeah, the US is down 2-0 to the Czechs as I type this … grrr.

    Your guys weren’t that impressive, were they? (Yeah, I know – at least they won.) I was listening to the radio last week here and they were explaining the teams to us ugly Americans. England they described as the New York Mets – a team built up to dizzying heights by the local media and then torn down by that same media when they don’t live up to the ridiculous expectations. We’ll see how they do in this tournament.

    I’m rooting the Americans, but my sentimental favorites are always the Germans. Go Germany!

    Reply
  • David 13 June 2006 at 8:48 am

    The Czechs played some very good football, unfortunately for the US; the goals were scorchers too.

    England were very poor, especially in the second half. Unlike the other good teams who won by low scores over lesser opposition but played well (Holland, Portugal, Italy), England limped to a weak victory with nothing to brag about.

    It’s an interesting description they gave for England (and there is a large element of truth in it), but it doesn’t take into account the national feeling towards the team and the emotional investment in them winning.

    England can play well (e.g. the wonderful 5-1 win against Germany back in 2001 is my favourite example, sorry Greg), but never seem to play as well as they can in tournaments, which is incredibly frustrating. Not only do supporters feel it, but I’m sure the players do as well – this overwhelming feeling to do as well as the 1966 team, which must be difficult to play with. At present, I don’t think the current coach is the man to inspire them to great heights, and it needs something special in the next two games to set the fires burning within to give them any sort of chance at doing well. We shall see.

    Germany haven’t been great of late, but you can NEVER count them out, and the host nation factor should play a large part. However, I don’t see them winning 🙂

    Reply
  • Greg 14 June 2006 at 8:35 pm

    I don’t think the Germans are going to win, either. I’m sick of Brazil, but they’re probably going to win.

    Reply

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