It’s staring at me, that wallchart. It’s a little bit frayed and crumpled now since the move back from Greece and after finding its way around Jesse’s sticky fingers and teething gums. Since Sunday, I haven’t been able to summon the requisite will to complete the final vacant space. The one that states that Germany beat Argentina, one-nil, AET. It’s the finality that daunts me; the knowledge that once complete it becomes a historical artefact, no more a tantalising map of an unknown future.
All those games, all those goals, all those hours. Gone forever. However much I try to stave it off, the truth of it remains that time and life continues. Spain found that out. Germany will too. Eventually. World Cups must end and we must wake up from that glorious football-induced coma we’ve willingly allowed ourselves to fall into for a month. A month that seemed to last for a lifetime.
Did England really (dis)grace the tournament for those five confusing days in June? Was Luis Suarez’s vampirism really the subject of such excitable chattering over computer screens and potted plants in office cubicles the world over? Was that semi-final (and that scoreline) really a nightmarish Frankenmismatch that sent a lightning bolt through an entire nation’s hearts, minds and nervous systems?
You wouldn’t think so if you’d walked around the local Morrison’s in any given sleepy town on a groggy English Monday lunchtime the day after the Final before. The droopy flags of patriotism were being packed away with little fanfare, awaiting yet another misjudged outing when the drums of hype and hope thump once more in two years. Estate agents, dripping in the perfume of their middle age were more interested in which filling they fancied in their plastic-flavoured tortilla wrap. Bored checkout staff puffed out fleshy cheeks counting down the hours to their lunch, their afternoon break, their clocking off time, their weekend. Meanwhile in Germany. Oh, to have been in Germany. Or Argentina. Or Costa Rica. Or Algeria. Anywhere but here. Today. The first post-World Cup Day.
I’ve procrastinated over writing this final World Cup post. I wanted it to somehow say something profound about the World Cup and its significance in our lives. The truth is, that there really isn’t anything profound to say. Football is such a trivial pursuit when compared to the realities and banalities of our every day existence. It is a beautiful distraction. It is that. However, upon emerging from this month long reverie, the same world remains, gripping at the knuckles as it does.
I need to have my first chapter ready by the end of the month. My family need a home. I need a job. The people of Brazil are looking at each other and asking what the hell was that about as their cars skid off broken roads and their kids are forced to share tattered classroom textbooks. Sepp Blatter’s flush with the profits of his not-for-profit organising skills. Israelis and Palestinians are lobbing rockets at each other yet again. It makes a mockery of all the hosannas to humanity I’ve made throughout my World Cup pieces.
All those points may be true but an anecdote at this point might just save this piece from descending into the World Cup Blues. Here goes:
Whilst the FIFA jobsworths hustled, bustled and faffed during that awkward period just before Blatter desperately stretched his neck sinews to get himself into the photo of the winners with the trophy, our three year-old’s footsteps could be heard pitter-pattering across the landing. In Bonnie came, hair bedraggled, eyes bleary. “Please, I watch the World Cup, Mummy and Daddy?” she asked in her inimitable way which refuses to utilise auxiliary verbs. How could we resist? So, she snuggled in between us and watched entranced as Manuel Neuer was handed over “the big gold hand” – “I like that” – Bonnie liked all the “green” players during the World Cup; a fine knowledge already clearly developing considering how goalkeepers have had such starring roles throughout the tournament. She also enjoyed harmonising the “Brazil, Braaaaziiiiil” of ITV’s theme tune over the last month which made having to sit through the philosophical stylings of Messrs Wright and Hoddle marginally less excruciating. And when the montage finished and we turned the television off and after I heaved that heavy sigh that I do whenever a World Cup ends, she took Nina’s hand and said, “That was really fun”.
Whilst I’m understandably bursting with paternal pride over my child’s burgeoning enthusiasm for the game, I’m also aware that she’s highly unlikely to remember any of Brazil 2014. Her World Cups await in the desert lands and remote hyper-globalised megastates of the future.
However, it’s in these fleeting, transitory moments where football’s beauty truly lies. They are both uniquely personal and collectively shared experiences and they all contribute to how we recall and pass down a specific moment in time. And in that month when the senses are heightened with extra slo-mo shots of the sweating brows of young men fully concentrated and alert and cutaways to bulging breasts in national paints, we are given a snapshot of the frenzied drama of this planet in all its complexity of colour and corruption and trauma and joy. These aren’t the metaphors as the football romantics might seek to present them as. They’re vignettes. That somehow seems less flighty, more tangible to grasp within our memories.
It doesn’t really matter who won in the end. The point is that we all experienced it. We all shared in the layered stories that unwrapped themselves with each passing day of the tournament. We talked the same language for an entire month. It was merrymaking at its most beautiful extreme. What else do you really want from football?
And now it’s over. We go back to the splintered tribalism of our domestic football and sit through another four years of Deadline Days and grey-tinted post-match interviews. Mourinho will hold court yet again to his sickoffans. The grotesque of Spurs will gleefully shred the reputation of yet another promising manager as we Spurs fans promise to shred each other. More racism will be reported on the rise. More backpages will scream louder than the front, be more read than the front. We will endure another round of maudlin England friendlies as Germany’s simple plan is hushed down as something we can-not-should-not-positively-must-not learn from and implement in this rapidly developing footballing slum of a country. I’m tired by it all already.
And while you can’t escape real life forever, I say, go on Premier League! Go on Jim White, Alan Shearer, Greg Dyke and every football ‘writer’ paid by The Sun! Do your worst! You cannot and will not ever make me hate this game, though you all embody its very worst insularities and have pushed me to the limits of endurance throughout the years. I’m ready for the next four years. And you know why? Because of a grasshopper on a shoulder and a real life flying Dutchman and a winning footballing formula that took fourteen years from conception to completion and was executed with cliché-clipping joy of expression. It’s the World Cup. The World’s Cup. Die größte Show der Welt.
So here goes: Germany 1- Argentina 0. AET. Mario Götze, 113 mins. It looks right. It looks complete. It’s done. Onwards.
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