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The Definition of Football

 noun: a form of football played between two teams of 11 players, in which the ball may be advanced by kicking or by bouncing it off any part of the body but the arms and hands, except in the case of the goalkeepers, who may use their hands to catch, carry, throw, or stop the ball.”

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El Mayor Espectáculo del Mundo

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It may not have been pretty. It may not have been the spectacle of extravagance and style that we would have hoped. At times it resembled a slugging contest with some truly thuggish gamesmanship but in the end the team that attempted to play with a fluidity of movement and expression of freedom prevailed. Spain are the World Champions. And despite my belief that neither Spain nor Holland were truly deserving of their place in the Final itself, it cannot be denied that of the two finalists, it was the Spaniards who did the most to warrant the title now bestowed upon them.

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All In The Game

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Thank you Germany! Thank you Uruguay! As I hoped, match number sixty-three was one of the tournament’s truly entertaining and vibrant games. Of course, without the stakes being quite so high, both teams relaxed and played the kind of football that they are both capable of and have shown at various stages over the course of their seven matches in South Africa. And with it they were able to dispel the growing perception that this World Cup has been a series of drab, Mourinho-inspired tactical deadlocks. Of course, there have been those who have used such methods to progress (see holland) and I have been as guilty as anybody else of bemoaning this kind of effective pragmatism but having done so, I have neglected one of the other recurring themes of these Dispatches: the capacity of the World Cup to produce moments that will become embedded in one’s psyche, those golden moments that unfold a sprawling grand narrative which captivates us throughout its duration. (see worldcupdreams)

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Impressions of Africa

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The news emerged today that, health permitting, Nelson Mandela will be in attendance at the Final at Soccer City on Sunday and if this is the case, he will be asked to present the trophy to the new champions. I sincerely hope this is what comes to pass. This is how it should be. Because from the moment the reports broke of the tragic and premature death of his great grand-daughter on the eve of the tournament, some of the soul was ripped out of this greatest of parties. As I wrote all those weeks ago, this was to be the crowning glory of the great man’s ‘long walk to freedom’ and to have been so sadly denied the opportunity to bask in the sunshine of his nation’s open embracing of the rest of the world is perhaps one of the most callous hands fate could have dealt. (see va-va-vuvuzela)

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Diary of a Nobody

They expect too much of me. They always do. The people. The mass. The mob. So many eyes diverted away from my existence, I live my life through a transparent veneer like a ghost floating across misty plains. I call to them all and urge rationality and temperance but my words are shrivelled when thrust up against the bulging veins and spittle of venomous hatred. My life goes unnoticed. I live a solitary existence despite living amongst hundreds, thousands, millions. Alone. I am always alone. Until…

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Unpredictable Predictability

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I’d imagine that fish restaurants from Hamburg to Leipzig will be sharpening their knives tonight in anticipation of a flurry of orders for the ‘kalamari special’ over the next few days. Unfortunately, schools of innocent squid will probably suffer terminal fates because of the uncanny ability of one of their distant cousins to correctly predict the result of all the matches involving Germany at this World Cup. Yet again, Paul the Octopus gravitated towards the flag of the victors in his tank at the Oberhausen Sea Life Aquarium and this time his prediction was Spain.

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Identity Crisis

There is something about this Holland team that is slightly amiss. How can a team that has breezed through its group, overcome the imposing hurdle of Brazil and by and large looked comfortable in its semi-final victory against Uruguay, leave so many of us with a hollow feeling in the pit of our stomachs?

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Cheating the System

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The Corinthian football club of the nineteenth century, so the story goes, was so staunch in its commitment to the spirit of amateur fair play, that when an own goal was scored by one of their opponents, they would immediately reciprocate the gesture by scoring one of their own. Penalties for them were anathema, missing them deliberately. And they refused to join the Football League or compete in the FA Cup for years because their founding rules stated that players were forbidden to “compete for any challenge cup or prizes of any description.” My, how the times have a-changed…

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School Reports

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The teacher in me couldn’t resist the opportunity. So without further ado here are Mr Theoharis’ end of term reports for the final four:

Uruguay:

This pupil has exceeded all expectations this year. He has applied himself to his studies with a commitment and discipline which has seen him rise from the middle ranks of the class and thus set himself the achievable target of finishing the term as star performer. Uruguay has shown exceptional flourishes of flamboyance on sporadic occasions and despite having to overcome a mid-term difficult period, when it seemed that everybody else in the class was willing him to fail, he has shown incredible tenacity which has seen him prevail and stands him in good stead for the examinations to follow.

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A Simple Plan

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If you’ve been regularly reading this blog you will recall that I confidently predicted a South American winner of this World Cup and more specifically that victory would take shape in the form of Argentina (see south-america). The events of the last twenty-four hours have dramatically re-shaped such initial bluster with the twin exoduses of the traditional giants of that continent, Brazil and Argentina; both spectacularly caving in during their quarter-finals but in differing circumstances. While Brazil panicked beyond logic and reason against Holland and went about single-handedly wrecking their chances of recovery with rash tackles and petulant tantrums, Argentina’s demise was devastatingly brought about by a team that clinically dismantled the attacking foundations with which Diego Maradona had so admiringly instilled into his players.

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