World Cup Fever

We are about to enter the twilight zone. A time of disproportionate swearing at the television set and vehement curses and dredging up of historical national grudges and crowing over victories long past. A time of travelling insane distances at 11 o’clock at night to spend time with other males who share the same lingua espana and tribal affiliations. Ritualised abuse will be shouted at each other and then at the television screen so that the historical grudges and long dead victories can be resurrected and reburied in public thereby creating some dubious form of unity and sense of well-being. It is a time of endless poring over team combinations and discussions on strategy that look like old flicks of world war two where old generals frown and bicker and move pins on maps. It is a time when I will graft a sprout of interest onto my sport dead soul and feign ecstasy or dark depressions and I will jump mindlessly on the spot shouting ‘ole ole ole’ whenever Argentina scores a goal. I will do this for love. Actually I won’t. I will do it because it is less painless than the excruciating explanations why I should be moved to do this of my own accord. In the same way that the deaf enjoy going to rock concerts for the atmosphere and the general vibrations I will fake soccer hysteria because it’s kind of fun and also, because I have already survived 2 world cups with the mad Latin and I know what it costs if I don’t show some form of enthusiasm.
I look forward to World Cup time because I know someone will wheel Maradonna out of rehab and he will invariably say something completely ridiculous and his genius be declared by his besotted followers. If Argentina wins the Cup he has already said he will get butt naked and run nude round the obelisk in Buenos Aires. I fail to see how this could be construed as an honourable demonstration of undying patriotism rather than the more likely explanation, being; that the cocaine has finally got to him. I would also fail to see how people could seriously build a church to a footballer with more than his fair share of vices and worship him every week if I hadn’t lived in Argentina for a few years and realised that they are actually all completely bonkers when it comes to football. I still haven’t been forgiven in some Latin quarters for suggesting that Maradonna might have been up to more than coaching when he was found off his trolley and in the nude with those taxi boys by the local Buenos Aires constabulary. Call me cynical possums but I swear that’s the last time I’ll call Saint Maradonna a nancy boy - I probably should have taken heed of the fact that Maradonna, Che Guevara and Jesus occupied one entire wall of the living room before opening my mouth anyway.

We like to think we are sports mad here in New Zealand but trust me – we are absolute novices. This week most of South and Latin America will be grinding to a highly strung halt. I still remember showing up for work when an English/ Argentine World Cup Test was on. I was the only one on the carriage in my train and the only one on a completely desolated street. It was 1pm on a weekday and an unholy silence reigned. By the time I let myself into the completely empty building I had convinced myself that someone had dropped an atomic bomb and that no one had bothered to tell me. It wasn’t until I heard the communal roar of ‘Gooooooooaaaaaaaalllllll’ ricocheting round the neighbourhood that I realised that I was the sole person in Buenos Aires who had turned up for work that day. So I headed to the local bar – where I found my students who were not drinking – but jumping with one arm in the air. “You have to jump! You have to jump like this!”they shouted. And so I did. I was Alice and this was a pub full of white rabbits. Vamos Los All Whites! I’ll be jumping for ya!

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