(78) I’d not long got into this football lark, this was my first World Cup finals. Held in Argentina, a place this 9 year old had never heard of. In a time before live football on the telly, bar the F.A.Cup final and the annual scrap with Scotland. Every game was to be televised. Not only that, but televised at a time I was allowed to watch it, well some of it anyway. England had failed to qualify. The Scotland team were to be England for the tournament. Clive “The Book” Thomas, wasn’t having any of that, he was going to claim some of the limelight, just by doing his job. Brazil were heading for an inauspicious 1:1 draw. According to our Clive, there had been enough time to take the corner, but the games time had then expired with the ball in the air. The fact that it ended up in the back of the net, didn’t matter. Match over. I couldn’t keep my eyes off this exotic looking football, they were playing with. The Adidas Tango was something else. I was mesmerized. I don’t know which genius had come up with the idea of Ticker Tape, but the effect that it made on me, was the same as the little plastic snow globes. I was hooked. Never mind Clive Thomas and his whistle, Mom and the words “Bedtime” were way more devastating. Clive Thomas and my Mom would have been big friends. Rules were rules. I got to see the start of the final, but no matter how much I could drag my feet, I was never going to see the end.
(82) For the first time since 1970, England qualified. “This time, more than any other time” I learnt all the words. The 80 European Championship had been a mess, I was up for this. The hype was that France were a good side, a threat. 27 seconds in, and we were 1:0 up. Except for an equaliser, when we were taking a breather, we cruised to a 3:1 victory. If France were supposed to be our equals in this group, then this was going to be easy. Well no. We ended up with West Germany (Pre wall) and Spain. We defended well enough, but couldn’t score. Greenwood, chucked on Keegan and Brooking. It had been a gamble to even take them, they were injured. They were also touted as our best players, hence news snippets of them trying to get fit. With minutes left, Brooking to Keegan, a glancing header passed the Spanish goalkeeper, agonisingly, passed the post too. Our World Cup over, and we hadn’t lost. My brother had raved on about Brazil. They might not have been at the races in 78, but they were back now. The game v Italy, is still my favourite game. Italy were like this annoying fly, that the great Brazil just couldn’t swat away. I say great, because they were. Every player was technically brilliant. Could do stuff that was just jaw dropping. Italy beat them. It finished 3:2, but it was a game of “Next goal, the winner” it could’ve easily have finished 11:10. In this bloke called Rossi, that had been suspended for match fixing, they had a goal scorer. They had squeaked through the first group but nothing was going to stop them after the Brazil game. Plus I got to see the whole of the final, maybe Mom was softening.
(86) Disastrous start v a post Eusabio, pre Ronaldo (The posing one), Portugal. We were supposed to win, we lost. I was out and hanging around as adolescent kids do, Morocco would be a push over, I’d decided to follow the crowd and go on a local youth club organised “Midnight hike”. Someone had brought a radio with them, so we could listen to said push over, We spent most of the time singing football songs at the top of our voices, as Ray Wilkins became only the second England player to ever get sent off and Bryan Robson went off injured. England could only draw 0:0. The third game of the group, and Mom banished me and my brother upstairs to watch Poland on a portable black and white telly in my bedroom. I have no idea what Mom was watching on the big colour telly, but Mom ruled. We didn’t care because Lineker scored everything that fell to him. A hatrick, and we were finally on our way. It was during the World Cup that my brother got married. We snook off during the reception, to watch France v Brazil. Me, my younger sister and her hubby. The day after I watched our game v Argentina amongst non football loving. Non believers. I still don’t acknowledge the second Argentinean goal as anything but a scruffy tap in. Had it not been for the hand of dog, I still maintain that he wouldn’t have scored the second. Had it not been for the blatant cheating and the travesty of justice that followed, I would now look at the second goal as something of beauty. I can’t. I consoled myself with Lineker being the tournaments top scorer.
(90) I was a working man now. Not living at home anymore. My telly, I could watch what and when I wanted. The girl I was living with, was violent towards me for other reasons. It was another slow start. We had to beat Egypt to go through. At work, one of my workmates in boredom, went round sporadically shouting “Let the Bull loose”. Steve Bull wasn’t going to make the splash we hoped. Before the Egypt game, I was confronted by my first anti-nationalism. A shop assistant that wanted England to lose. As the England support went from city to city, I predicted when and where there was going to be violent clashes. I was right, but I didn’t particularly want to be. I had been around a bit now, become street wise in the art of football violence. I didn’t partake, but knew what happened. We got stronger as a team, the longer the competition went. As did Platt. The World Cup made him. The last minute volley, as penalties loomed, will live long in the memory. Cameroon and we’d be in semi-final. Nobody told Cameroon that they were supposed to roll over. We got through. The whole country stood still for the Semi-final. I stood still in front of the telly. I couldn’t sit down. We have now got a complex over England and penalties. It started that night. I watched the entire pub across the road from the hi-rise I was living in at the time, empty out after we’d lost. I couldn’t cope with the domestic violence too much longer, and before the end of the year, I was back home.
(94) “Do I not like that?” Graham Taylor failed to get us qualified at a tournament, I’d toyed with saving up and going to. By the time it had started, I was living with another girl and I’d become a parent again. America, or more, commercialism, had worked out that there was a lot of money to be made. They quickly set up a professional senior league to get passed the rules, and greased the palms of the FIFA hierarchy, so they could get their claws into it. It was way more about getting your brand shown around the world in the most prestigious competition, than it was about the football itself. Football took the dollar. The final was rubbish. It wasn’t even held in the capital, or biggest city anyway. A television company produced a documentary about the final itself. They filmed people in different communities and social backgrounds, watching the drama unfold. That programme, was more entertaining by far, than the whole of the competition.
(98) I hadn’t managed to attend any of the Euro’s that were held in England in 96, but it had rekindled my spirit. I was pumped up for it. On the morning of the first game against Tunisia, I bought a music cassette full of patriotic songs, and I made a little England flag for my son to wave. It just set me up for more disappointment. After going ballistic after Owens goal, Beckham getting sucked in, and getting sent off, it was penalties again. That monkey was getting bigger and heavier. France didn’t let the will he, won’t he drama, upset them, and they showed us how it should be done.
(02) This was seemingly about politics. FIFA wanted the World Cup to be held in either Asia, or Africa. At the time, neither continent, had an individual country that was physically able to hold it. They settled on the joint bid from Japan and South Korea. It meant that kick off times weren’t going to fit in with evening viewing. I sat down with the fixture times, as soon as they became available, and worked my holidays around the England fixtures. I then just sat back and watched my disgruntled colleagues struggle to get the time off because they’d left it too late and there were too many that wanted the same time. Forward planning. I watched in bewilderment, as Ronaldino scored a free kick from the half way line over Seaman. Sven had been too negative. At least it hadn’t gone to penalties.
(06) The flag of St George was everywhere. Hanging out of bedrooms, hung up in pubs and shops and stuck on a bit of plastic that you could fix to your car. You couldn’t move for them, until England were knocked out and everyone went back to ignoring that it didn’t matter what sport it was, you were actually, still English. The final was marred by Zidane having a mad one in his very last appearance. What should’ve been a great players swansong, was scuppered by simple gamesmanship. As for England, I was still living in Telford at the time, I had gone over to a car show at the NEC with my lad and a Nephew. We could’ve watched it at the venue, but I was determined to watch it at, what was then, my local. Rooney got hoodwinked by his domestic teammate, the posing Ronaldo, and we were out. Those dreaded penalties again.
(10) More politics. This was more blatant. This was the western world trying to say sorry for the slave trade and turning a blind eye to Apartheid for way too long. It was appeasement. Oh how people moaned about the constant noise of the vuvuzela. Admittedly, it sounded like a swarm of bees, but it gave the World Cup character. Plus it was better than the Sheffield Wednesday band that gets subsidized for watching England. It was this World Cup that my love, my expectations, my interest died. The so called “Golden Generation” (Svens words after England had won 5:1 in Munich), had turned rusty. You could see that they didn’t care anymore. A group of players that were more concerned that their agents were working on getting them better deals. Longer contracts, on more money. The Premier league had made its mark of being the richest league. Lifting up that iconic trophy meant nothing compared to a bulging bank account.
(14) so what. I wasn’t really interested anymore. When I was recalling all the World Cups, I’ve watched over the years, I realized that I actually couldn’t remember anything about 2014. Sure, I knew it was in Brazil. I remembered watching programmes about how the authorities had tried to clean up the Favelas, but of the actual action, goals, players, teams? I ended up having to Google it. I thought that doing that, it would jog some memory. . . . . . . . . It didn’t. I still couldn’t remember anything. The desire of countries to win games. Be positive, has been replaced by the need to profit. Negativity reigns. Having a “good” World Cup, is one that secures a lucrative move. Either player wise, or manager/coach. Money doesn’t just talk, it screams till you give in.