Thursday, June 17, 2010

Robson, Crapper, Dewhurst, McIntyre, Treadmore, Davitt

As one could hardly have failed to notice, the World Cup is here. For some it’s as if Christmas has come everyday for a month, however not everyone’s so keen. It’s the ladies I feel sorry for. This is a time when girls the world over either make an attempt to follow the football with their square eyed beaus, vainly asking their men folk what the offside rule means, or give up and head out on a month long hen party with other football widows.

I don't want this to sound sexist though because in fact I’d say that it’s to most women's eternal credit that they don't waste their lives on this stuff. So many chaps are currently living football, breathing football, eating football and excreting footballs (very painful) that it almost seems like a form of collective insanity.

It was with some irony then that I noticed in my local mini mart that Indonesian condom brand, Fiesta, have released a collection of party hats in the various World Cup team colours. Surely relations between the genders are rarely frostier than they are during World Cup month and so I can’t really see the need myself. In any case, I’d certainly think twice about putting an England rubber on my old fella, as appalling flaccidity would surely ensue

In order to watch the matches at home, I, like many of you I'm sure, have had to unplug my cable TV box and go rummaging around the back of the set trying to stick a bloody coathanger into the telly's aerial socket, as you can't watch the games on RCTI or Global TV via cable. Clearly these two channels think that it sheds them in a good light if it appears as if there are 44 players on the pitch kicking the ball through a blizzard. Bah.

And speaking of wintry weather, the Indonesian national team aren't in the World Cup finals of course, as the upper levels of hell haven't yet been covered by a sheet of ice. However, there is still plenty of enthusiasm for the World Cup here, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.

Indonesia are no Brazil it has to be said but should they be? A romantic view of poverty and football is often trotted out regarding the mighty Brazil, the idea that starting off in some shantytown kicking a tin can round the street imbues one with some kind of Nietzschian footballing will to power and puts steel in the soul. If that was all it took, then Indonesia would have won the World Cup ten times by now.

I watched the opening match of this year’s tournament, South Africa against Mexico, down the pub naturally. Drinking whilst watching World Cup games can be a dangerous pastime however as the big match atmosphere tends to inspire one to prodigious feats of dipsomania. Seeing the host nation sink the first goal of the tournament was a sublime moment though.

The next day it was my boys’ turn. Watching England’s first lukewarm performance against team USA, which will be remembered, of course, for its epic goalkeeping howler, I was reminded of the scores of other mediocre England performances that I've watched during my life. This is, by now, a largely unbroken chain of pain stretching back almost 30 years to my very earliest memories.

The trajectory of our national soccer squad is perhaps a metonym for Britannia’s own century long decline. Trying to enjoy my Saturday evening in front of the TV, the England team reminded me of that old quote, “One day I sat there thinking, ‘Cheer up, things could be worse.’ so I cheered up and sure enough, things got worse.” Ah well.

The following Tuesday I decided that I needed some authentic African atmosphere and so I headed down to Ali's Bar on Jalan Jaksa in order to watch Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast versus Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. The assembled Africans certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves and the Guinness flowed freely. Thankfully, the commentary had been turned down and some irresistibly sunny African pop music permeated the bar.

I’ve saved the best until last however because as you read this, I will have just touched down in Cape Town on the holiday of a lifetime. Fortuitously enough, my long-time Jakarta housemate is both South African and a massive football fan and has got me tickets for three games at a not unreasonable US$80 a pop. I’m also sleeping on his family sofa for the next 11 days which should save me a few shekels. So I’ll be taking in some top soccer and enjoying the sights of South Africa before heading back Asia side. 

Hopefully I'll be able to file a report from the World Cup next week in time for Saturday’s Metro Madness. In the meantime, wish me luck. Or, if you don't like the columns, wish that some tanked up English football hooligan knifes me in the kidneys and I never come back. See you soon folks. As for a prediction, North Korea are going all the way this time, you mark my words.