One of my first memories of belonging to a “nation” was in 1982. We were on holiday in France. Every night we would sit around the radio to listen to the BBC World Service to hear the latest news from the Falkland Islands. At 6, I knew that there was a nation that was “good” — Britain — and I belonged to it. There was also a nation that was “bad”: Argentina.
Four years later, England played Argentina in the World Cup quarter finals. Maradona was at the peak of his powers, but we had golden boot Gary Lineker. I was 10 and this was the first sporting occasion that had really caused my heart to pound. Added to the tension was also that sense of nation, and the delicious fate that had paired England and Argentina. Argentine fans burned Union Jacks and vowed revenge for the sinking of the Belgrano; the small contingent of English (the game was played in Mexico) proudly held aloft their St. George’s crosses.
Five thousand miles away in England, I sat and watched. We lost. I was heartbroken. Not just because we had lost, not just because we had lost to the Argies, but the manner of the loss. This was the game of Maradona’s infamous “hand of God” where he impishly hand-balled the first goal. We lost, but that little devil robbed us. At 10, I knew heartbreak and hatred.
Such is the allure of the World Cup. Americans know the agony of sports (Rusty’s pain over the Seahawks’ SuperbowlÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â defeat was terrible indeed), butÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â link that pain to patriotism and you have the crucible of pain and joy that is the World Cup.
My life will be on hold for the next month. I even booked my flights home to avoid missing any games. England are sure to crash out in heartbreaking fashion. Brazil are favourites. The US are ranked fifth. Some tiny nation will bring down a giant. I cannot wait, agony notwithstanding.
Rather than organise a complicated bracket or fantasy league, I’ve created a Kulturblog league on the BBC “World Cup Daq” site. Sign-up,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â join the “Kulturblog” mini league (#3555),Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â and buy and sell teams like shares. The winner not only achieves Kulturblog glory, but may also win BBC prizes, including tickets to a Premiership game. If you win, come to England and I’ll host you. If you have trouble joining the league, leave a comment.
Come on England! And best of luck to the Yanks.