22 June 2007

Football Crazy, Football Mad

I am so bloody excited about my new blog that it’s verging on the tragic. Unless it’s my excitement at the forthcoming England match that’s spilling over into other aspects of my (desperately unexciting) life. Still haven’t done the mountain of washing up downstairs so perhaps not… The Beautiful Game – yes, once every four years I rediscover the artistry, grace and awesome loveliness of football, or is that footballers? I love David Beckham. His talent, his style, even his peculiar little voice. But I love the World Cup more. I love the excuse to loll around watching loads of telly, hollering and shouting at the top of my voice, drinking beer and behaving like a bloke. I love the rampant tribalism, the feeling of being part of a great big, massive gang with a mutual goal (sorry), the heady optimism of believing that we stand a chance of holding that little gold cup aloft. Although as my 7 year old son pointed out the other day, it’s not a cup at all, rather more like a strange tasteless ornament that your gran might once have proudly displayed on her sideboard. Whatever, it’s what the thing represents that counts. So what exactly does it represent? The best in the world? The luckiest in the world? And does it really matter? Well of course not, in the grand scheme of things – as, say, compared to global warming, the conflict in the Middle East, child abuse and so on. However, it’s bloody good fun and I’m all for that. There’s not enough of it around. Likewise optimism and community spirit. It’s not often we get to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, we’re all rather insular these days, and big footie competitions like the World Cup have the potential to bring us all together, albeit in a small way. And OK, it’s a total illusion – one that we’re all complicit in – but an injection of magic and faith into our lives is all right by me. As is the bonhomie. I enjoy chance conversations with complete strangers, the nod and wink you get from others who wear their (English) hearts on their sleeves, hats, cars and even flips flops. Yes flip flops. I saw flip flops in the shop window of Primark yesterday with soles decorated with the St George cross. What a gas. It’s rare for us Brits to speak with fellow members of the human race on buses, tubes, in the supermarket etc. unless the weather is uncommonly rubbish or good and I’m all for anything that gets us doing more of that. The World Cup also facilitates pride in England and Englishness – an elusive quality most of the time - and during the World Cup Englishness is defined by our national team and their achievements. It’s also been defined by the behaviour of our fans but let’s put the distasteful aspects to one side for a moment. Like the trophy itself the World Cup competition throws off a warm, golden light. It casts a spell. A trick of a tournament. We are one nation, one community. We are great. At least until we get knocked out following a penalty shoot out. Ouch. COME ON ENGLAND!

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