Make The Most Of This World Cup, There May Never Be Another Quite Like It

Just nine years old, I was jumping for joy around my living room when Zinedine Zidane inspired France to World Cup glory in 1998. Does my family have any Gallic roots? Nope. Did I harbor an early disdain for Brazil? Not at all. I was just really, really happy that France had won.

The World Cup is a tournament that conjures up lots of little moments like the one aforementioned, and inevitably, they become permanently etched into your catalogue of football memories. I’m 24-years-old now, and have probably been watching the beautiful game for about 16 years. Ask me to recount something that happened from an Everton game—the team I follow religiously—from 1998 and admittedly, I’d be clutching at straws.

But the World Cup is different; it has an unshakeable aura about it. I can recall plenty from France 1998: being mesmerized by the “real” Ronaldo and his futuristic R9 boots, thrilled by the exploits of an 18-year-old Michael Owen against Argentina and intrigued by the vibrant Romania team, that to a man, had dyed their hair bleach blonde. And that’s to name but a few.

The World Cup comes around every four years and given the significant amount of time that passes between each one, they become almost synonymous with certain periods in your life; indicators of how far things have or in some cases, haven’t progressed. When reminiscing with friends about times gone by and asked “how many years ago was that?”, a World Cup is my first point of reference.

I think back to watching the 2002 World Cup as a 13-year-old, getting into the school hall early where they’d erected a giant projector to show England vs. Brazil in the quarter-final. Ronaldinho scored to send England packing, leaving teachers and pupils alike miserable for the rest of the day.

I think back to watching the 2006 World Cup and for the first time in my life, really getting the passion of it all. Seeing Fabio Grosso’s late winner against Germany in the semi-final was one of the most captivating moments I’ve ever watched, probably the moment that I fell head over heels in love with the World Cup. It was untouchable, unhinged delirium. It was marvelous.

I think back to watching the 2010 World Cup in my less salubrious university days, meeting some Nigerian lads in the student union and cheering on the Super Eagles. Yakubu missed an absolute sitter and they went out in the group stages. They were heartbroken.

And I know I’m not the only one who harbors these kind of precious memories. My Granddad still speaks with exuberance about the 1966 World Cup as if it was yesterday. How he witnessed Pele getting kicked from pillar to post at Goodison Park and how he was enchanted by the bow-legged “little bird” Garrincha. Those memories are still so vivid for him, almost crystal clear, 48 years on.

The Brazil World Cup has been subject to a whirlwind of anticipation and expectation, but it’s easy to see why; namely, it’s in Brazil, 64 years since they were previously the host nation. There are few places on the planet that have preserved the essence of the game so impeccably. The lust for football in its simplest form still shines through on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and in the favelas of Sao Paulo. It’s all wonderfully raw and reassuringly real.

But the soul of soccer that will be so prevalent in Brazil may not be around for much longer, as the demands of the modern game have seen FIFA look to spread their wings, taking the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

It’s an emphatic indicator—as if we needed one—that the game is moving with the times and the romantic nexus we all cherish is being gradually diluted. Russia and Qatar could put on fine World Cups, but can anyone honestly say they’d prefer to watch the tournament in one of those two nations over fanatical previous hosts like Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain or Brazil? It just doesn’t feel as thought it’s going to be quite the same.

So I implore you to immerse yourself in this World Cup as much as you can. Watch as many games as possible. Enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere that the South American hosts are sure to create. Revel in the passion of the supporters and the players. Get set to make some memories while the soul of the World Cup remains very much intact. Because the game can change so quickly, for better or for worse.

After all, in the 16 years I’ve been watching World Cups we’ve gone from snazzy boots and bleach blonde hair to vanishing spray and goal-line technology! Who knows what the face of football will resemble by the time Qatar 2022 rolls around in eight years time?

As a nine-year-old, I jumped for joy when Zidane scored because my Dad had drawn France in his work sweepstake; he’d promised to give me £10 if he won it. To be honest, if someone gave me £10 today I’d probably jump for joy. I suppose some things never change.

14 thoughts on “Make The Most Of This World Cup, There May Never Be Another Quite Like It”

  1. The world is changing and even the countries you mentioned, like Italy, Germany, etc. have a totally different makeup to their populations and football supporters. To suggest that the World Cup in Qatar or Russia, for example, won’t offer the same “romantic nexus” is absurd. Was the World Cup any worse off when it was in South Africa?

    Some people like to pretend it was always better in the “good old days”.

    1. “To suggest that the World Cup in Qatar or Russia, for example, won’t offer the same “romantic nexus” is absurd.”

      Can’t speak for Russia but Qatar won’t have the “romantic nexus” especially if played in the summer. Also no Alcohol allowed/served (not that it would make it better or worse) and other restrictions that Qatar have.

      Yes it’s true, humans in general tend to only remember the good stuff from the past and that’s why it becomes the “good old days” but IMO, Qatar will not have a joyous atmosphere before and after each days game and during the tournament.

      1. Lots of countries ban alcohol in sports stadiums and some restrict it’s sale to a certain distance away from sporting events. Brazil normally prohibits alcohol sale at soccer matches but because of FIFA’s pressure, due to their sponsors, Brazil has changed their laws to allow alcohol sale at matches for the World Cup. Doesn’t England ban alcohol at soccer matches too?

        1. No. You can drink in and around the stadium but not once you take your seat in England.

          If Quatar goes ahead I want to see FIFA force them to serve alcohol as they have with the Brazilians.

    2. That’s because it was. Do you really think the last three cups can rate compared to any tournament from 1970-86? Where were the great games? The legendary players and goals? There really weren’t any. Nobody carps about the recent world cups because they haven’t been memorable.

  2. “but can anyone honestly say they’d prefer to watch the tournament in one of those two nations over fanatical previous hosts like Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain or Brazil?”

    What about England LOL!!!

    1. I can say that when the 1994 WC was held in the US, after each days games were over, it was kind of a let down here. People pretty much just went home.

      It wasn’t that way when I was at the WC in Germany in 74 and 2006. People socialized after the games to chat, laugh, and discuss.

      That was the only disappointing part of the 94 WC here in the US.

      I think it would be totally different today if the WC was held here in the US. You’d see a lot more socializing and getting together after each day’s games.

  3. Being physically present where the World Cup is being played is very different to watching it on TV. I’ve watched the last 10 World Cups on TV and where it was held never made a difference to my enjoyment or lack thereof. In fact, I enjoyed some of the background coverage of places I’m not familiar with, as was the case when it was in South Africa.

    Memories of special moments in a World Cup is not dependent on where it is held.

  4. I remember 1970 Mexico the magic of Pele and Brazil. Watched it on a black and white tv with rabbit ears. The world cup is a special event- looking forward to this one just like all the others:)

    1. Whoaaa Rick, You watched that? Some people call that Brazilian side the best ever as I think they had the perfect record when they lifted the trophy. I only started from 1990, but I have read so much about the world cups before. But you must have seen how mesmerizing the Dutch were back in the 70s too particular the 74 and 78 where they lost both times in the finals. Don’t expect much this time around, but still I am Oranje for life.

    2. Shortwave radio for me.

      I can’t remember if the spanish TV station here in San Fran showed the game. If they did, back then they had a weak signal and rabbit ears didn’t help much. Yup, B&W 20″ TV.

      Heck the local newspapers didn’t even cover the daily games. With no internet back then, my parents bought periodicals from Germany and papers from Latin America.

      How times have changed. lol.

  5. “Just nine years old… 1998 World Cup” lol – wow, sometimes I forget blogs and internet sites have a large following and group of under 30 people (not dissing).

    When I was 9 years old (1966) it was extremely difficult to follow the world cup in the USA, let alone watch it.

    For the 1978 WC, many cites showed the WC at indoor arenas or concert places via close circuit broadcast – pay per view.

    You had to buy tickets to view on a giant screen. In the San Francisco Area the games (all) were shown at that the Cow Palace. If I remember correctly the price of a ticket to watch the final via close circuit at the cow palace was $20. A lot of money at that time.

    I was lucky for the 1974 WC, I was in Germany for vacation visiting my Grandparents so I went to a game and saw the rest on TV.

  6. I’m glad I grew up in the golden age of the World Cup during the 70’s to 1994. No offence to the author of this piece, but the tournaments he grew up with were the start of the decline of the tournament. It really went downhill after the advent of the 32 team format. Trying to wax nostalgia about 1998 just doesn’t make the grade.

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