11 July 2010

Probably Won’t Watch the Cup Final

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 12:30 pm

I know that it’s Spain versus the Netherlands, but that’s about all I know about it. As far as I can recall I’ve never played the game. It seems to work a lot like hockey, but with penalty shots instead of a penalty box. I could probably get into it as a spectator sport, but I’d rather not. I believe that I’ve watched extended portions of only two soccer games in my life. Recently I tuned in the US-Ghana match after the Americans had tied the score. The announcers kept telling me what an exciting game it was, but to me it just looked like an extended exercise in collective frustration punctuated by one brilliant individual move executed by one of the Ghanians.

I also watched the second half of the 2006 World Cup final, France versus Italy. I didn’t even realize that that was the most recent championship game until Italy was eliminated in the first round a couple of weeks ago. Reigning champions ousted, said the news story. So I looked it up and, sure enough, the Cup is contested only every four years. Who knew?

Four years ago we were living in Antibes, which is a town on the southern coast of France about 50 miles from the Italian border. All the cafés in the old town had set up televisions outside so the al-fresco diners could enjoy the game, and big crowds of flâneurs stopped to watch as well. A lot of Italians take weekend jaunts into France, so the crowd in Antibes wasn’t entirely behind Les Bleus. Had this been an American scene, everybody would have been getting drunk and rowdy. Instead it was the usual subdued and affable soirée scene, with people sipping their wine rather than swilling it down, but nevertheless intensely engaged in watching the game. At one of the cafés a drunken young French mec was standing next to the tv set directing obscene remarks and gestures toward the referees and the Italian players, but it was all in good fun. When Zidane performed his notorious head-butt and got ejected near the end of the game, the crowd murmured among themselves more puzzled than incensed. The tie-breaking free kicks seemed like kind of a let-down after the intense play, in which France was clearly the superior team, except for that great Italian goalkeeper.

When Italy finally prevailed a few of the Italians cheered but mostly the French either wandered off or continued their after-dinner conversations. The mood was a sort of fatigued melancholy tempered by the easy camaraderie of the weekend nighttime promenade. By now it was pretty late so I walked home. Through the early morning hours I heard the occasional Italian celebratory car honking its way through the streets. No riots, no burning cars, no drunken hooligans throwing bottles. Maybe things were different on the Italian side of the border.


UPDATE: By the time I first thought about checking the score, the game was over. ¡Viva España! — I suppose.



  1. The best thing about the World Cup is that you can slack off at/from work to watch matches on the TV. It’s kind of accepted because so much business gravitates around it to try and make money off it. Mars bars became Believe bars complete with St George’s Cross livery in 2006. The insinuation was that if you sat on your arse watching football chewing your way through Believe bars some kind of astrological quincunx would cause the England team to play better.

    It’s annoying that football’s cultural dominance means that you can do things that would otherwise be considered unreasonable, like slacking off a bit. It’s a bit like how smokers have a fag (UK meaning) break every couple of hours whereas I can’t tell people that I’m just going outside to think for five minutes. Still, you have to make the best off it.

    It was a championship full of poor matches. Someone more versed in football history could tell you why: probably too much money causing seasons to be extended, players to be overtired and risk-averse etc. I watch Euro and the World Cup because I like sport if it’s at a world class level. Though England are more Saturday League US Junior Soccer than world class these days.


    Comment by NB — 13 July 2010 @ 6:51 am

  2. As a kid I closely followed the ups and (mostly) downs of the Chicago White Sox baseball team. The flames of this old passion are reduced to barely-glowing embers now. I do regret not being able to watch the White Sox win their first World Series since 1917, since I was living in France at the time (2005).

    I see that, while 1 million plus piled into the streets of Barcelona calling for an independent Catalonia a week earlier, the locals still mobbed the plazas to watch the final match on television. Apparently half the team were Catalonian, so it wasn’t a huge sellout.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2010 @ 10:21 am

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