Friday, 11 June 2010

Did somebody mention a football tournament?

Tomorrow, it begins. The blind expectation that consumes every fibre of my being, in spite of everything that has happened before. The heart stopping moments of fear and wonder that could lead either to utter joy, or sickening misery. The feeling of wanting to shout in anger at the television, whether everything is going right, or it is all going sp desperately wrong. I am, of course, talking about the World Cup.

Of course, I make absolutely no claims to be a big football supporter. For many years, I have claimed to be a Liverpool fan, without ever really making plans to watch a full game. Come the end of the domestic season, I generally find myself only vaguely aware of which team came top of the table, and which teams have been relegated to the depressing depths of the lower leagues. I try to make myself aware of events such as the FA Cup final, but only because knowing when the matches are being played at Wembley helps me plan my travel around the area. My knowledge of the events is only slightly better than my knowledge of the teams themselves, and moreover, the players. I could perhaps name a few of the Liverpool players, and maybe a few odd players from other clubs, but I would not have a clue as to the typical starting line-up of any of the major clubs on an average Saturday.

So why, then, do I find myself in a position where I am genuinely excited that the World Cup is starting tomorrow? What is it about the beautiful game that is so much more attractive when set on a world stage? Is it the carnivalesque atmosphere which emanates around the travelling supporters from every corner of the Earth? Is it the look of undeniable belief in the eyes of every single one of those supporters that their team will make it this time? Is it the look of utter despair on those same supporters faces when their dream comes to an end? The answer of course, lies in all of these things, and so many more.

I remember from tournaments gone by, being one of the spectators, standing with my fellow supporters with a pint in my hand, and a belief in my heart, and feeling like I was part of something, and that it was my duty to be there, singing for my team, and my country. I remember with great joy the moment when Michael Owen scored that goal and a torrent of happiness washed over me like a waterfall. I remember the great sadness and utter disappointment of losing 3-1 on Penalties to Portugal. I remember, the dread of being tied a the end of 120 minutes, and thinking “oh, god. Not another penalty shoot-out!”

But through all of these memories, be they painful or joyful, the thing I remember most is the spiritedness of the competition itself. Despite us all supporting different teams and sharing banter about who was the better team, the better player, who had the luckiest draw, and who keeps diving in the penalty area, there was never any real malice there. Of course there are always a few people who spoil that atmosphere, and take it too far, and shame on them, whatever nationality they represent. We all have our louts, and our hooligans, but despite what they say, they are not football supporters, merely supporters of unadulterated violence, and should leave with their tail between their legs and seek refuge elsewhere, whilst we, the mass populous enjoy the entertainment.

Football is a great divider, but at the same time, it brings with it a great spirit of community. For the next three weeks, the battles being fought on the pitch will overshadow any battles being fought in the deserts and the jungles. There will be tears, there may even be a little blood-shed, but once it is all over, we will go back to our lives and things will be the same again. We may stand on the other side of the fence with our neighbours when we play each other, but once it is over, we will shake hands and declare that the best man won, and “wasn’t it a good game though! Same time in four years!?!”

So once again, I shall be there, in front of the TV, screaming for my team to give the other side a good trouncing. I hope we win, I really do. But, above all, I know in my heart who the real winner will be. The real winner, as it always has been, and always should, will be football.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment!