Friday, June 23, 2006

This month ...

This month, I will be mostly thinking about the World Cup.

(Apologies to readers who have not watched the Fast Show, who won't recognize that misquote).

I like football, so I'm not one of these people trying to block it out. And being a bit of a mongrel, I have plenty of choices for who to support, which keeps it interesting for longer. England, of course; Argentina, where I was born (and aren't they doing well!); Italy - where my dad's family come from if you go back far enough; I'm even one 32nd German on my maternal granfather's side. And not forgetting USA, not that I talk about that so much during the world cup! (But in fairness I think they're not a bad side and had the worst draw in the tournament - any excuse!)

As I've got older, I've somehow felt more English. I've moved from always wanting England to lose (just to be different) to actually starting to identify with and support them. But when it comes to football, the team I most want to win is always the same: Italy.

So over the next couple of weeks I will have to endure the same torture I go through every two years: although by far the best team in the competition, Italy go out early on due to their perennial tendency to try to sit back and defend a lead rather than play the game and score more goals.

Or will I? Twice, so far, Italy have twice managed to get that crucial second goal, and against very good teams (Ghana and the Czech Republic). Perhaps this time it will be different. Maybe we'll be able to walk all over Australia like the minnows they are. Maybe we'll be able to knock out a French team who are to be fair pretty poor. Maybe we'll rise to the occasion against the brilliant Argentines, stifling their attack and counterpunching in classic Italian style. And maybe in the final we'll brutally expose Brazil's defensive failings and thrash them 3-0. Maybe.

Well, it could happen. And if you can't believe that of your team, however bad they are, then you can never really know the pain, and occasional exhilaration, of watching sports.

Maybe it sounds like burying your head in the sand. But I don't know - I reckon people like Brunel, Edison, Churchill - and maybe Gianfranco Zola - all had a bit of that belief in their own lives as well. I think we need more of it.


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