Thursday, June 12, 2014

World Cup memories etc. II

I spoke to Kevin and made it fairly clear that his tenancy will end this year, not next year or the year after. That means it'll probably be six months before I get my own space back, and that's a helluva long time.
Mum and Dad are in the UK and fly to Bordeaux early next week. Dad is really enjoying the sights and sounds of St Ives and Cambridgeshire. There's a lot more life there - human and non-human - than in Geraldine. I'll give them a ring on Saturday, on which day Mum becomes eligible for a gold card. That's hard to believe. She still seems fortyish to me.

The World Cup is now just hours away. I wanted to arrange a tipping competition for work, something simple where you just put in $10, pick eight teams in advance, and get points based on how well your selected teams perform. I'm normally hopeless at organising anything, but something like that I could comfortably manage and would actually enjoy doing. Then I thought better of it, realising there is virtually zero interest in the World Cup around the office. It could have been an embarrassment if, say, only three people entered including me. And what if I'd won? In Auckland these sorts of competitions ran all the time. I did reasonably well, even in the rugby ones, despite (or maybe because of) my lack of rugby knowledge.

In my last post I said 1990 was my favourite World Cup. That's got a lot to do with England's performance and being a kid, but perhaps it was the last competition where football (in the UK at least) was a working-class game, instead of the money-making machine it's become since. The 1994 World Cup in the States wasn't bad at all, and it got plenty of coverage back home. England weren't involved, but Ireland were, and they caused an upset by beating Italy in their opening game. There was one big black mark on the '94 competition however: the Colombian player who scored an own goal was shockingly murdered on his return home.

I've read some online comments about past World Cups, and most agree that 1998 (France) was better than 2002 (Japan and South Korea). For me it was the other way round. In '98 I'd had way too much of all the England hype and I wasn't too disappointed when they were knocked out. Plus I was in the middle of my A-levels which I knew I wouldn't do very well in. The motivation wasn't there. One of the highlights for me was Jamaica making it. By contrast, in 2002 I finished my university final exams on the eve of the tournament, and after months of intense study and high-pressure exams I could watch the games entirely guilt-free. Senegal's win over France in the very first game set the tone nicely (Senegal were like the new Cameroon); there were upsets galore. England negotiated their group of death, then beat Denmark comfortably, then faced eventual champions Brazil, and with a bit of luck... The only real downer was some dodgy refereeing which helped South Korea reach the last four at the expense of Italy and Spain.

The 2006 tournament in Germany promised a lot (the hosts beat Costa Rica 4-2 in the opening game) but didn't seem to deliver much, even if Togo and Angola added a bit of colour. I quite enjoyed 2010, mainly because of what I was doing (travelling for some of it) and New Zealand's performance - it's a cliché but they really did punch well above their weight by drawing all their games. This one will be interesting for sure, with so much non-football stuff going on behind the scenes. England play Italy on Sunday in, as far as I see it, a brand new stadium in Manaus, in the middle of a rainforest, where there's next to no interest in football. England's second match, against Uruguay, is in Sao Paulo, which according to Google is 1670 miles from Manaus. It sounds like unnecessary burning of fossil fuel, and an equally unnecessary logistical headache.

At least this time the World Cup will be played in a (mostly) hospitable climate in a country that actually cares about the game. If it really takes place in Qatar in eight years' time, heaven help us.

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