Friday, July 25, 2014

First Word: Susan Siddeley: Football Part Deux

Fear of Football: Part Two.

It’s over! No more heart-in-hand, pulse-galloping, penalty watching. No more yawning through carefully measured criss-cross passing, no more gasps for brilliant headers, no more scoffing faked falls. No more anguished sighing over the tumbled, tripped and those whose goal-shots go wide. No more air-pumping fists, flashing tattoos, back-climbing hugs, tears rolling down stubble. 
            Can we ever forget the agony on the faces of the losing teams and their supporters? Brazil, poor, poor Brazil, challenged hosts, bereft missing the final, the showdown! Instead, watching arch rival Argentina face Germany. Two middle-sized countries, proud and capable to boot (in soccer at least).    
            I don’t feel sorry as I did watching the mini-states in the earlier rounds, but…. when disaster strikes, it’s far, far worse than expected. A total and unforgettable wipe-out. A 7-1 victory for Germany in soccer-worshipping South America! I don’t cry for Argentina - winning is not a right and when I was young we were sent to bed for throwing paddies; pulling a ‘Messi’ face. But I do wonder what’s so wrong with being 2nd, 3rd, even 4th? (In a Writing Competition your name on a Long List is cause for celebration!)
            To better understand the utter grief of football players losing, plus the riots and bus burning perpetrated after the matches by fanatical fans, I asked my son, who’s involved in competitive squash with scars to prove it, as he headed upstairs after this game, why it was so, so bad. 
            “Winning, Mum,” he explained gravely, as if to a child, “means being First, Top, The Best.  It is the only “goal” for football greats! Their whole lives are spent training for it. It’s win or die!”
            Thinking back, I pondered his words, shuddering. “But some-one has to come second” When I looked up, he’d disappeared. It’d been an exhausting month. 

P.S. The next four years yawn. I’ll miss the anthems, the hands over hearts, the swell of the crowd voice But even more, the glorious feeling of global connection the beautiful game inspires in those able to kick a ball, if not old enough to worry about losing and its after-effects.      

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