The greatest tournament in the bloody world.
I like football. I really do. I’ve grown up playing it. I’ve grown up watching it. For a while I really, really wanted to be a commentator for Radio 5, so I could follow it for a living. I have, as all guys who play have, anecdotes stored away in my head about times when I did something interesting involving football, great skill, and the minor contributing factor of sheer luck that will doubtless get toned down in the telling of said anecdote. I am a football fan, and I have been since I was four years old, when I got my hands caught in the advertising hoardings at Stark’s Park, Kirkcaldy, to the background of St Johnstone beating Raith Rovers by three goals to one. I like football.
But the World Cup makes me wonder why.
Perhaps its the deluge of games as exciting as Holland against Denmark, France playing Uruguay, or Greece versus Anyone?
My first day off from work during the World Cup was not a feast and/or festival of football. After sitting through the BBC’s playfully racist montage of national stereotypes, Japan and Cameroon gave a passable impression of two teams playing a game of football. Japan, all discipline and no flair, scored one goal and then did the most sensible defensive thing possible: they gave Cameroon the ball.
Watching Cameroon play football is like watching your geeky flatmate try to chat people up. After faffing around in the wrong positions, they eventually make a bee-line for the target before pelting it with baffling and ill-advised strategies in a desperate attempt to score. In other words, Cameroon’s attacking play was like a geek asking a hot girl what she thinks about the use of plot arcs in Babylon 5. Japan’s defensive tactics were akin to said hot girl’s friends noticing she is in trouble and forming a protective shield around her. Faced with that, Cameroon’s only response was to smile weakly from a distance and wonder what had gone wrong, so sure had they been that they were in there.
The key difference here is that myself and my flatmates needed no help from Paul LeGuen when it came to cringe-worthy small talk with people we found attractive, although I’m sure he would have offered it had he been there.
To summarise: this match was as entertaining as your average bout of despair.
This is often true of many group stage matches at the World Cup, where the pre-tournament hype builds to a collective peak before everyone realises they have suffered from selective amnesia. In fact, yes, all World Cups are full of horrifically dull games before a brief period of interest around the Quarter Final stage. This is because the managers of Wee Diddy Teams are generally not stupid. They know that it is unwise to try and be better at attacking than Brazil, and so they dig in and defend. Their job is not to entertain us, it is to ensure their team achieves the highest possible finish in the competition. Greece winning Euro 2004 was a textbook example of this approach to the game. I am aware this is not very interesting, so I will now call Georgios Samaras a twunt.
Perhaps then it is the inevitable tedium as a nation is gripped by the insane belief that they have a chance of winning, the delusion saturating all media until the inevitable despair affects everyone’s summer. Yes, England, I mean you. I’m half English, but I’m not supporting England. This is not entirely to do with living in Scotland all my life, but more to do with the fact that I don’t want to support any team that has John Terry, Ashley Cole, or Frank Lampard in it. Why do these people earn this much money? Why is entertainment rewarded with lavish sums and contracts, adulation and general aspirational notions, while we have Doctors and Nurses doing something that is actually genuinely important, rather than a pleasant diversion from our lives? The ridiculous amount of money spent on footballers (Ashley Cole famously dismissed a weekly wage of £55,000 per week as insulting) could be used in the NHS, or in Third World countries, or to pay back China when it sends the bailiffs round. But no, we give it to footballers. Not to go on about this too much, but Ashley Cole is a footballer, and Ashley Cole is a cunt.
Perhaps it is the fact that FIFA are a two-faced, corrupt, anti-semitic scumglomeration, who only allow FIFA branded vuvuzelas inside a ground, meaning that repetitive droning noise that sounds like a giant angry bee is actually giving Sepp Blatter an erection. The only plus point is that, for the duration of the football, the living room was mercifully free of wasps, hornets, or other creatures that cast doubts on God’s sanity. Have you read about the corruption in FIFA? It’s mindboggling. The upper echelons are ridden with people who think there’s a Jewish conspiracy afoot (explaining all those famous Jewish teams that have won the World Cup), while actively and openly encouraging the notion that the World Cup is about big stars rather than encouraging any old-fashioned notions of romance about the game. Terry Henry, as he would be called if he was from Basingstoke, instead got off without even a ban for a blatant display of cheating. This is because FIFA want big stars (even fading ones like France and Henry) to be present, because that guarantees revenue. Rich people will turn up looking to see what this ‘saw-ker’ thing is all about, starring that shiny French bloke from the Gilette ads, or the little English guy whose body looks 24 and whose head looks 80. Who knows? Maybe even the original World Cup trophy will appear from the heavens during the final, smiling beatifically as us all and letting us know that everything is alright, and that football, her child, is doing better than she could ever have expected, and that she is proud of everything it’s achieved, simply by tweazing her vagina and coming money.
We are talking about a tournament with a pre-game ceremony that fetishes the ball for God’s sake.
Perhaps the Vuvuzela is the perfect allegory for the World Cup. Its constant repetitive drone dominating everything it comes into contact with, its detractors slammed aside, the excuse of celebrating the local culture and atmosphere negated by corpulent, swollen greed, and the absolute begging of the questions: Who is the for and who is enjoying this?
words Andrew Blair.