OF COURSE I’VE always been a fan of the World Cup Finals just as millions others globally. It may astound even myself sometimes thinking that here I am fanatically supporting other national football teams but not my own country’s soccer squad. Since when has Brunei Darussalam ever entered even the preliminary qualifying rounds of the world cup tournament? In all likelihood, not in my lifetime… never!😦
And yet the World Cup fever is so infectiously contagious, so much so that even little children are pretty much hyped-up by it all!😀
Some of the most memorable World Cup legends I could name from off the top of my head now: Pele, Eusebio, Gordon Banks, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller, Zico, and many more I can hardly recall… call it short-term memory lapse.😛
One of my most exciting experiences of sharing the joys and thrills of the World Cup craze was back in 1994 when a not-so footballing nation, the United States hosted the event. And the Americans prefer to call the game — soccer — due to the fact that football is another different all-American favorite sport (which hasn’t really caught the fancy of the world citizens at large). Surprisingly enough, the US soccer team is poised to become a World Cup strong contender even now… It won’t be long until Americans celebrate their jubilant World Cup Final win, big time, man!😛
That unforgettable year, my newly-born baby boy was only about a month old and I happened to take a two-week long vacation from work. Incidentally, at the start of the World Cup season, I injured my left middle finger that got sandwiched in between the door of my car. It got swollen up pretty painfully and caused agonizing sleepless nights for me then. Fortunately or unfortunately, it helped me stay awake to watch live matches at odd hours since the US Time zones differ by up to 12 hours from our supposedly sleeping times. At the same time I had to make bottled milk for my baby boy, too… so just as well!😀
My most favorite team to become World Cup Champions in that historic FIFA World Cup USA was Brazil, which they did by beating Italy 3 – 2 in penalty shootouts after both teams drew 0 – 0 in the Final. It was the first time that a World Cup final had ever been decided by penalty kicks. For Brazil to have won their fourth World Cup title was also a first for any national football team in its history. Audience-wise, it was also one of the highest ever recorded when about 3.6 million spectators thronged stadium venues in the States, not to mention live telecasts to millions more TV viewers worldwide.
I remember during the 2002 World Cup, I was away on a sojourn in Malaysia for more than a month when the World Cup Finals were jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea — an Asian debut to stage the prestigious global event.
My son who was eight then hated the game of football because a couple of years prior to that I socked it to him to join in a soccer training scheme. He wasn’t so into team-play as much as he loves individual sports activities like swimming, tennis, etc. until today. But that year in the FIFA 2002 World Cup, even though I wasn’t around to coax him to watch the globally-televised matches at home, my son still followed it on his own. And his favorite player then was trend-setting David Beckham of England who sported a mohawk-like hair cut that particular World Cup year. My boy even drew David Beckham in one of his art lessons at school. Such was the impact that this most popular sporting event of the world had on an 8-year-old who hated the game itself…😛
In fact, that year happened to be the only World Cup I missed watching telecasts of the matches since I was too tied up to watch any TV. About the only match I could squeeze in to watch then was the closely-fought ‘pitch battle’ between Brazil and England which the Brazilians won brilliantly…😉 Brazil who were my clear favorites, then, went on to win their fifth coveted World Cup trophy in that year’s Final defeating Germany by a two-nil margin.
I was only three years old myself when England successfully hosted the World Cup Finals in London but unlike any toddlers aged 3 these days who could still catch glimpses of the Live telecasts on LCD or HDTV flat screens, I doubt most Bruneians then even bothered to read up about it in delayed news prints. Probably, only a handful of young Bruneian students who were sent on Government scholarships to study in the United Kingdom then knew who Bobby Moore was (England’s captain who led his team to their first and only World Cup victory that golden English football year).
During the last World Cup Finals in Germany four years ago, I actually rooted for Cote D’Ivoire simply because I admired the scoring ability, skilful and determined leadership of the Ivory Coast striker, Didier Drogba, then. And this year, I’m neither an Ivory Coast ‘sympathiser’ nor an ardent Brazil supporter but I’m now a fully-fledged England’s No. 1 fan. Why? Because of the tenacity and admirable qualities of England’s skipper.. the one and only Steven Gerrard!😛
And the midfielders-strong English team will face Argentina (coached by its famous World Cup legend on his own, Diego Maradona) in the Final — Lionel Messi — its star player to give England team members some headaches on the ‘battle-field for the Falkland Islands’!😀
Ole! Ole! Ole! England will be the new World Cup Champions soon enough!😉