When Colin put up his competition about prediciting the World Cup finalists I had a go. I chose England because I genuinely think they have a chance and Brazil because “why not?” But when I tried to look up the groups and knock-out stages to see if this pairing was possible I didn’t get far. I just couldn’t be bothered. And that’s why I picked Brazil, I suppose. I’ve no idea who the form teams are, haven’t looked at a betting site (not that I ever do) and didn’t even know who England will be playing in their group until yesterday. So I opted for Brazil.
I can remember where I was when England won the World Cup in 1966. I can remember (at least I think I can) the skills and ebullience of Brazil in 1970, and like millions of others I thrilled to their Samba as they won with such style.
And then it died a bit, and a bit more, and by 1978 I was forming the opinion that winning was all and elegant play didn’t matter – or wouldn’t be allowed if it got in the way of a win. With the hindsight of age and experience I suspect that might always have been the case, but 1970 saw some beautiful games that surpassed anything in ’74 or ’78, when my memory is of chunks being kicked out of legs.
1978, of course, was when Argentina won for the first time. Their second came in 1986, in a tournament that featured the “Hand of God”. What a pity that no-one in authority, then or since, has come out and said what many spectators were thinking. Something on the lines of
...What a pity that such a gifted player isn’t ashamed of cheating and thinks it the proper thing to do in order to win…
Such an utterance from on high would have gone down well, with me if not with General Leopold Galtieri, who recieved a 12 year sentence that year (and a pardon three years later) though it probably wouldn’t have stopped Thierry Henry from handling the ball a quarter of a century and some six World Cups later.
But at least handling the ball and kicking chunks take place on the pitch, and can be seen and judged. This might explain why both Maradona and Henry admitted their offences, though neither appeared repentant or received any punishment that I can remember. It would appear that there are – or were – worse things happening off the playing area, things that don’t come into view under normal circumstances. But come into view they did, thanks to the US Government, with consequences not only for some highly placed people but also for the game itself. Instead of promoting the beautiful game FIFA made it a laughing stock;
FIFA may now be cleaning up its act but the stench of corruption still lingers in my nostrils, which has done nothing to diminish my disillusionment.
And while those investigations by the US/Swiss authorities were taking place our own country wasn’t doing a lot to help. In a few days it will be two years since the national team were humiliated by Iceland, setting in motion a chain of events that would lead to even more disillusionment with the national game and which would end with Sunderland’s relegation.
And now we have the 2018 World cup, where the opening mismatch featured one country whose leaders are happy to blow aeroplanes out of the sky and another whose leaders appear happy to stone children to death. Neither are willing to allow people to be themselves, both welcome the opportunity to divert criticism that this competition provides. I didn’t bother to watch that opening game.
And then came Egypt v Uruguay, one of the oldest national teams versus one of the youngest. It should have been interesting but I just couldn’t be bothered to watch it. And that, for me, sums up this World Cup. I just can’t be bothered.
It might be all of the dishonesty that’s rife in the game. It might be all that’s rife in the participating nations. It might even be that we’ve been crap for too long, but I can’t get interested in what’s going on in Russia. I might pick up some of the later games, especially if either Jordan is playing, but I won’t be making any effort. At least, not for now.
And the pity is, I can’t ever see things changing.