Family Life Personal

The World Cup is in motion — and so is my heart

World Cup fever has struck and my boy is happy to catch it. Just like I was — and still am

“What other sphere of human activity calls forth all that is most noble in men’s souls, and all that is most base? Or has so much excitement? Or more vividly exposes our strengths and our weaknesses? Boring? You might as well say that life itself is boring!”

Go on, then, how many of you assumed this quote was about sport? Or football?

If you didn’t, and would rather be out spraying your prissy roses than praying your prissy Ronaldo misses or scores, well, then, for the next month you and I will be living on different planets.

While you’re checking for blackspot. I’m there watching the Portuguese peacock suck in his cheek-bones, slick back his glistening locks and plant his billion-dollar legs just so, before unleashing a stunning free-kick to the back of the Spanish net …

It’s roses for you, and and it’s hissy Crissy for me – and every saddo but gladdo like me glued to World Cup 2018 in Russia

Actually the quote is from Imperium, a fictional biography I am reading of the very real Roman senator and politician Cicero, written by Robert Harris, and the great man himself was actually talking about politics.

But it captures something of how I feel about sport. Both as participant and spectator. How it is fundamental to my life.

And why the World Cup is so important. Even to those who just don’t know it is.

It might go some way towards explaining why many normally well-adjusted people right now are losing all reason and dignity when a goal chance is missed, or a bad tackle goes unpunished, and are being moved to unseemly deliriums of delight when a sphere of leather-encased wind nestles in the opposition’s net.

Or why stadiums all over Russia right now are a boozy, sweaty carnival of chanting, flag-waving bank clerks, bank robbers and bankrupts, and temporarily deranged planning consultants, priests and pot-scrubbers.

Only for the next few weeks they are not bound by job descriptions or what car they drive: they are all fans together.

Billions more, of every age, creed, belief and social cachet are equally enraptured on their plush living room sofas or leaking shanty stools, swaying to the unscripted but ordained rhythm of the people’s pageant. Soaring and sighing, and hoarsely pleading with the glistening but not listening referee on their TV screens.

Yes, it’s World Cup time, folks.

The very best of us and the very worst of us vividly exposed.

Boring? You might as well say that life itself is boring!

The 21st FIFA World Cup is well up and running, kicking, tackling, scoring, fouling, crying, arguing … and everything else the world’s best footballers, coaches and officials are capable of for the next four weeks or so.

fullsizeoutput_260f.jpgAnd my son, decked out in his iconic Argentina jersey, is planning his 13th birthday activities around the day’s games on Wednesday. Bum cheeks grooved to the sitting room sofa and little else to worry him

Well like any burgeoning teen he has plenty to worry him, but not now, not now when spaghetti-haired Neymar and Brazil are up, playing the Swiss …

We might have to remind him to feed and release his and our beloved dog Bella though ….

I’m sitting now at my computer outpost in the early morning, in the home office beside our son’s bedroom. His very waking words, minutes ago, from his darkened room, were: “The first game is not on till 3 today Dad … it’s … which of the Koreas is the good one?” — “South”, I interject — “Yeah, them, they’re playing Sweden …”

Obsessed just like I was when I was a boy, with no pesky work or living obligations to distract from my unquestioning enchantment, and total immersion.

Like so many of un certain age, I can barely remember what I had for dinner yesterday, but I will describe with ridiculous detail the famous Carlos Alberto goal that crowned Brazil’s World Cup 1970 final victory.

carlos alberto cartoon (1)A magical tournament anyway, but for a young boy watching football at its most refined and mesmeric — and for the first time in living colour — let’s just say I will never forget it.

Pele the panther, imperious Tostao, the bustling, free-scoring Jairzinho and all those Samba superstars in yellow, green and silky blue … they dwell forever blithe and lithe, forever young and perfect in my mind’s eye.

It was jarring to watch these heroes on a recent History Channel documentary, all ravaged by time and tide, but their glistening eyes still clear and boyish as they retold their tournament tales.

Why I can even remember when England were genuine contenders, and how unlucky they were to go out of that same tournament when as defending champions, don’t forget (as if we could!), they lost a two-goal lead and wilted in the Mexican heat in extra-time against the dreaded West Germans.

No Gordon Banks and poor old Peter “the Cat” Bonetti the goalkeeping fall-guy.

Bye bye noble Bobby Moore, comb-over flapping Bobby Charlton, busy Alan Ball and the rest …

Mooro 1970 (1)
Bobby Moore leads England out against West Germany in 1970

And so many vivid memories attached to all the tournaments since.

Every country that has ever qualified for the World Cup finals will have their memories of those special tournaments.

McGrath card (1)

Here in Ireland we have our Ray Houghton, Roy Keane and Packie Bonner remembrances, and our special favourite, the sadly monumental Paul McGrath, and those mad days of car-horns blaring around streets all over the country and that all-in-this-together-however-long-it-lasts unity and harmony across a land more used to division and separation.

For mine is a life that can be measured out in treasured World Cup moments. Only growing outwardly older and responsible in those four years between each era-defining, superlative-defying, no-denying culture-shaping series.

Already this year’s moments are lining up: Messi’s penalty miss against the mighty Vikings from little Iceland … England starting strong and then putting their fans through the mill until Harry Kane’s second saves the day against unheralded Tunisia …

Trivial and trite, or vital and life-enhancing? The choice is ours.

For me, Trumps will come and Trumps will go but my World Cup warriors and villains will live forever. And will do for my son too, it would appear.

Ireland are not in it this time, but in ways it’s for the better, allowing us to sit back and enjoy the greatest show of them all. To watch as seasoned superstars ferment their fame, or crumble and tumble as new ones rise to the challenge and take their place.

Politics did it for Cicero. I’ll go with Pele, Maradona and whoever lights up Russia 2018.

The roses will have to wait.

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30 comments on “The World Cup is in motion — and so is my heart

  1. I am a football widow, my husband and 4 sons love the world cup, guess I will be recording my soaps#bigpinklink@_karendennis

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice try, Enda. Off you go, and I will see you on the other side, when you have re-entered that marvellously interesting sphere that is everyday life. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Daydreamer mum

    This house is at absolute fever pitch!!!!! I love it!! 10 hours of football last Saturday???Brilliant!!!
    The kids have never seen England do particularly well ,whereas the first world cup I ever watched was Italia ’90 so I know how this fever pitch can end in misery , but that’s all part of it I guess! eeeeekkkk #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My son is living and and loving it … unfortunately I’m freelance and have been called in nearly every day to work. Ironically it’s working on a newspaper sports desk, so I’m am working on games rather than being able to sit back and enjoy. But it’s still brilliant. Hope England do well


  5. With you all the way on this, haven’t missed a game yet and already making plans to charge up the iPad batteries so I can watch one game on that and the other on the tv red button when the final group stage games are on! And I admire your prescience about England, seeing as you posted this before the game – do you know this week’s Euromillions numbers, please? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ha ha … so I amended it this morning!!! Amazing how new England turn into old England when the pressure is on … but getting a new result, ie a win, might help them to relax!! I hope they do well … England going well makes it a much better tournament for me anyway

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love football and am avidly watching the World Cup, however my memories of earlier tournaments are all blurred into one event, I’d struggle to give you any information from specific events #triumphanttales

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s really great that you and your son share this! It makes it that much more special and the memories he will have when he’s older are priceless:) #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  9. About 20 years ago I was seriously into football but now I’m not sure I could name a single person on the England team! Enjoy the beautiful game and thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Was sadly disappointed with the on-pitch antics of Croatia. I thought them mean. Go Moses! I only watched because I find it hard to ignore sound and motion – and every bar in every town I’ve been in, in the past week, has had TV screens too big to miss.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I really love how you’ve conveyed your passion in this post. I recognise the enthusiastic verbal replays of triumphs and disappointments as my brother does exactly the same. Living in Holland the World Cup is rather like an elephant in the room. However, hubby and our neighbour are still ‘obsessed’ so I can only imagine their level of interest if Holland were there. We will all be cheering on England today 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Catie. Thanks for popping by and taking the time to respond. It’s the same for us here in Ireland: failed to qualify and looking on now at the Greatest Show on Earth! Loving it so far and I hope England do well


  12. My husband is enjoying the world cup but I couldn’t be less interested if I tried. The thing that hugely bothers me about it all is the reported increase in domestic abuse that occurs when England looses a game in these tournaments. Shame on all of us. Sport is meant to be joyful and inclusive. But there is no escaping the constant green hue of the TV in our house.
    Thank you for joining #BigPinkLink

    Liked by 1 person

  13. In fairness, domestic abuse only needs an excuse … I don’t think it’s the World Cup’s fault! These minorities make headlines, but the vast majority enjoy it and don’t cause trouble … quite the opposite, it brings joy and passion in a positive way to things, I believe. it’s a spectacle, and an epic one at that. Thank you for reading and commenting


  14. I hate this time of year, however, it seems that Hubby has tonsilitis so he’s in bed where he can also watch football meaning I don’t have to yay!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh no – not football. I can’t stand watching any more than maybe 1 half of the beautiful game. I totally get why people feel on a high and completely united. But it’s definitely not for me. On a serious note, I love that you and your son are so bonded over football. I think Mr Button was hoping that Little Button would follow suit, but sadly it’s not meant to be LOL! Thanks for joining us for the #DreamTeam 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. #thesatsesh I like you response to the quote above, ‘ it is a lovely bond for us’ if this is the case then fully commit and enjoy every offside, red card and glorious goal

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Lucy At Home

    We are usually a rugby family (hubby is Welsh, after all!) but sport of any kind is always welcome and World Cup Fever has definitely descended. Watching the 6 (!) England goals on Sunday was AMAZING (even if I did have to celebrate in silence as I had a poorly 3 year old asleep on me). Great post capturing the excitement and build up of it all! #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I love this. It captures the weird and wonderful bubble of the big summer tournaments perfectly. World Cups (and to a lesser extent Euros) are such a significant cultural touchstone for so many nations – the English, the Irish, the Germans and so on. (“Where were the Germans? And, frankly, who cares?” Yes, I know it’s the wrong sport. It’s still a standout piece of commentary from a rare time when an entire nation was captivated by hockey.)

    That Carlos Alberto goal is also imprinted on my mind, even though I was nestled in my mother’s womb at the time. One of the joys of this World Cup is that this is the first one any of our kids have been interested in. I’ve been watching the History Channel shows with Toby too and taking enormous joy in introducing him to that great Brazil side of 1970 and to the magic of the 1986 and 1990 tournaments where England were such a key player in the unfolding drama. Gary Linker pre-MOTD. Roger Milla, Toto Schillaci. The Hand of God. Gazza’s tears. He now shares in some of my most formative memories. It’s what fathers do for their sons (and daughters), right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the World Cup has been brilliant. Even though I am a freelance sub-editor working on a sports desk, and cannot really focus on matches while working. But I have seen plenty and am loving it … actually I have pre-withdrawal symptoms already as the matches are thinning out and it will all be over soon enough! My son is loving it too and we enjoy chatting around it all. Her is a very talented player and a really astute observer of play.


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