Friday, June 11, 2010
The World Cup starts today. I hope South Africa will be good hosts, certainly the song about wavin yo’ flag is a goodie. When I am older I will be stronger – unusual that and rather moving. In recent days I have remembered how much I love World Cups. What would my view of the world be without football? It would be like the American view. Would we even have heard of such countries as 'Paraguay', 'Ivory Coast' or 'Italy'? The Brazilian national team is a world treasure. This year the Spanish have the potential to be the most beautiful team ever and all things being equal they’ll win it – though the strength of football is that all things are never equal; no other major sport produces more upsets because there are so many different ways to score and prevent goals.
It’s not essential to my enjoyment that England are present but it’s preferable if they are because no matter how the party turns out it’s always better to have been invited. I will inevitably get my usual surge of patriotism when England come up against a biggie - we’re always best as underdogs and for as long as I can remember England have suffered with always performing just about as well as the opposition – dramatically raising their game against Germany or Argentina and equally dramatically lowering it against minnows. But that’s all part of the tradition.
My favourite one was Mexico 86. I was nine years old and I can still taste that World Cup. All the colours were turned up to max and Mexico might as well have been Mars. On the day of the final I was staying at a friend’s house and we had to beg his dad to let us watch it – he was Royal Naval officer and a dreadful rugby snob who referred to football as ‘soccer’. He poured utter scorn on my nine year old enthusiams and dreams and I’ve still never quite forgiven that type. In those days the players were still Our Boys going off to do their stuff against the Martians. Today familiarity with the world’s best players through the cosmopolitan clubs has removed much of the exoticism; and Our Boys are loathed as overpaid, overhyped brats.
I wonder now though, whether the fact that everyone accepts that they’re overhyped means that they’re now underhyped. As for overpaid, you can’t really blame them for taking what’s thrown at them and at bottom they are still what footballers always were: big boys who want to run and kick and score goals. I think they deserve sympathy: they’re the generation of players for whom retirement will consist of an endless empty existence in a dream home, listlessly potting pool balls in the basement games room while upstairs a fattening WAG plots the most effective way to fleece them at the divorce court. But that’s when you’re older, so to hell with that, just wave yo flag...