Friday, June 09, 2006

Once Every Four Years

As every soccer/football fan out there knows, the World Cup has kicked off. I rarely lament our lack of cable television -- in fact, I truly believe that we are better off without it. I don't believe that it's good stewardship to spend all that money for something we don't watch much. But this isn't supposed to be a post about TV. It's supposed to be about the beautiful game.
I grew up reading about the World Cup, as seen through the eyes of the great Pelé, but it wasn't until 1986 when I actually got my first taste of what it was all about.

Yes, 1986 was the Diego Maradona show, a World Cup that was all about the marvelous left foot (and the sneaky left hand) of the Argentinian. Everyone says that his later "coast-to-coast" goal vindicated him for the "Hand of God" fiasco, but I don't think so. The Hand of God goal was a backbreaker, and it forced England to play from behind. Of course, I couldn't help but be bitter about the Final, where Germany and my hero, Rudy Völler, battled back from a 2-0 deficit only to see Jorge Burruchaga break away for the game winner.

In 1990, when Argentina opened against Cameroon, the game coincided with high school graduation practice. Naturally, David Carey and I showed up to practice late, having watched the Indomitable Lions defeat the defending champions. I distinctly remember the two of us walking up the aisle past all 500 of our fellow grads who were already seated, to our places on the stage with the honor grads, celebrating Cameroon 1, Argentina 0!!

I spent some time in Germany during that World Cup, most notably sitting in a pub with our tour guide watching West Germany defeat Holland 2-1 (in the game with the famous spitting incident). It was amazing to watch the fervor of the German fans, how silent the streets were during the match and how the country celebrated the win.

I remember countless discussions over who was the best footballer and who was the best team. I remember internal debates: wondering if I could cheer against Brazil, because it was Pelé's team and the team that I grew up loving -- but then figuring out that I could do just that with Leonardo's elbow to Tab Ramos' head and the US bowing out to Brazil.

Here it is, 2006, and the World Cup is here. I was in Germany in November, and it's awesome to see what the churches are doing. There are huge outreaches going on in Germany, including in some churches, where they are showing the games on big screens. And I'm stuck trying to find out what happened from the internet.


anonymous sister said...

You should probably get a direct line with the Noblesvillian, who will get to experience all the fun first-hand. Just hope he can get a hotel room when he's there...

Dunce said...

Of all the matches I've seen so far, it's sad to see how poorly the US performed vs. the Czech Republic. The Czechs are a good team but not great, but the US certainly did a great job at stinking up the place.

If you'd like to follow the matches online, there is minute-by-minute coverage of a somewhat humorous nature on

e.g. the US-Czech match at,,1788207,00.html
which starts
"Oh look, the BBC have managed to hire a pundit sure to annoy Americans even more than Dave O’Brien: it’s former Brazilian midfielder Leonardo! Yes, the one that commemorated Independence Day in 1994 by swinging his elbow into Tab Ramos’s face, fracturing his skull. Oddly, he's yet to make mention of the incident..."

Anonymous said...

oops, that link was too long to be complete visible. sorry about that.