Memories will help achieve soccer’s goal
There’s a plaque outside the Aztec stadium in Mexico City. It commemorates the soccer teams of Italy and West Germany for the “Game of the Century” during the 1970 World Cup. Hyperbole? Exaggeration?
At the risk of calling in the men in white coats, I might suggest the exact opposite. A slight understatement. While that semifinal had more goals scored in extra time than any other World Cup match — and this is where I probably need medical supervision — there were at least two other matches in that World Cup that could have earned a similar accolade before the Italian and West German teams took the field. So what is a World Cup? It is
But the Mexican 1970 World Cup was
For drama, skill, panache, flair and brilliance, there has never been one like it since. Soccer fans occupy a different time and space, what Einstein might describe as a parallel universe. Our year, at least in Europe, starts in August and ends in June. Regional variations apply. Nostalgia may not be what it used to be, especially for soccer fans.
My boyhood football heroes are tackling arthritis instead of other players. Alchemists on the pitch decades ago now have difficulty finding a formula to climb the stairs. I was thinking of this last month as I ascended the steps, increasingly gasping, to the upper tier of the Bird’s Nest to watch two London teams in a preseason friendly. Now I have to declare a vested interest. I am rather partial to things Arsenal, have been since 1969. As for “The Other Team”, Chelsea, well, I can appreciate that some may find them worthy of a degree of support that I find strangely at odds with the advancement of civilization.
Be that as it may, what struck me was the fact that 56,000 Chinese fans turned up to watch it. There was a fair smattering of children and teens with their parents, and a lot of men and women in their early 20s, and almost as many women as men in attendance. This delighted me more than Chelsea’s disallowed goal.
Why? you may ask. They are making their own nostalgia. The kids at that match will talk about it for years to come. Many will want to replicate what they saw on the playground, (not, hopefully, the Chelsea tendency to roll and writhe on the pitch after a legitimate Arsenal tackle!).
At least some of the couples in their 20s will have their own children and talk to them of soccer and persuade, bribe, entice them to support Arsenal. And the women, as in all walks of life, are vital to any endeavor’s success. And in this case, the endeavor is an appreciation of soccer, its nuances, intricacies, tactics and ability to engender memories as we negotiate stairs in later life. Less than a year to the next World Cup. Plaques celebrate what went before, memories can help to recreate fabled moments. Scan the code to hear an audio version.
A swimmer dips into the Blue Eye, a natural spring about 15 kilometers from the city of Sarande, Albania, to escape the heat. The water is beautiful but breathtakingly cold.