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                                       politics + culture

Friday, July 14, 2006

World Cup recap

I made what follows as a comment on Roger Cohen's World Cup blog. (Btw, he quoted me in the New York Times/Herald Tribune the other day...) Yes, there's been a glut of World Cup posts, none of them linking to the good stuff....but, since this blog is about writing, I thought you might like it:

The World Cup

Best Place to watch a match: The Red Sea, an East African restaurant in Oakland where the clientele knows how to watch a match on a single television with seventy people packed into a small room. Imo, the acceptance I found there = the true meaning of the World Cup.

Best international camraderie: a table of Latinos split between Argentinia and Mexico at the Starry Plough in Berkeley...cheering for either teams' goals.

Starkest silence: tie the end of the England/Portugal quarterfinal at the Kezar pub in San Francisco...and the lone person clapping for Italy's third goal against Ukraine at the Red Sea. (My buddy did not realize that Italy was not a "house favorite".)

Greatest joyful moment: a Dane, a Brit and a I cheered wildly as Italy defeated Germany in OT at the Red Sea...a moment that even brought closet East African Italy fans at the Red Sea to join in the celebration...which is saying something. Grosso's goal is my favorite memory of this Cup. It was perfection.

Most astonishing moment: twofold. Zidane's header in the first OT of the Final at the Valley Tavern in Noe Valley in SF. It silenced the entire crowd...and then created an audible expression of awe at the replay. (There was a large South Asian contingent...my World Cup final had very marked Indian accents.) My take: it was the meeting of two masters...Buffon vs. Zidane. The entire World Cup distilled into one moment. Zidane's body, his will...expressed in one hurtling effort...met by Buffon's outstretched hand. The shot failed? So what!? I mean...Buffon, one of my favorite goalkeepers ever, saved it. That was just amazing. Worth every second.

And Zidane's headbutt...followed by his dejected, slumped-shoulder exit from the match...walking past the Cup itself. That is something none of us will ever forget. A Nietzschean moment. (Even, imo, more than Roger Cohen's reference to Camus, though that essay was sublime and spot on!)

Most unheralded impressions: the Ivory Coast goal against Van Der Saar. perfection..an impossible shot. Pirlo's dipping free kicks. The red-headed Swiss left back: reminded me of how I used to play soccer, more guts than anything else. Maxi Rodriguez' left-footed volley...an expression of pure will.

The essence of it all: there's a woman friend of mine, a Mexican immigrant who works at the cafe I go to in the morning. Over the five years I've known her, she's learned English enough so that we converse better in English than in Spanish. We used to joke about Chivas, her favorite Mexican league team in Spanish over the years...but now we rap about the World Cup in English. She's pregnant...but she still worked during every match. Even those of Mexico.

When I would walk into the cafe during this World Cup she would look at me with a big smile. I'd ask her if she wanted "to know" and she'd always say yes.

There are things that are bigger than soccer. Her child-on-the-way, of course, the income she made while she was pregnant, and her mastery of English...halting at first and now reassured...is so much more vital than this game.

But her smile when I'd walk in the door. The camraderie of it. Is the essence of what this World Cup means to me.

We are in this together. We shared something for a month. A sport and a pastime.

As the old man with the extreme bifocals said to me as I left the Red Sea for the last time after the Germany / Portugal match...

"Wasn't that something! What did you think?"

4 Comments:

  • i watched the copa at home this time, and i have to say i really missed the cameraderie of the pub packed with fans. the 2002 games in a taibei bar packed with red-clad korean businessmen shouting themselves hoarse was great fun. it was a wonderful month or so, so sad the games are finally over.

    brilliant writing as usual, paul. you really captured zidane over the past series of posts.

    By Anonymous wu ming, at 11:37 PM  

  • Excellent recap of the world cup, sir. I dig the Zidane recap.

    The question is, do these fine establishments also play games leading up to the WC, so we don't have to build up 4 years of anticipation?

    Keep up the words.

    ~ e

    By Blogger wrki, at 10:43 PM  

  • A Mental Exercise (Off-Topic)

    Imagine that you were a progressive American, and hated the Bush/Cheney administration for all the usual reasons: their cronyism with Big Oil, their tax cuts for the rich, the continuous erosion of civil liberties, and their lies, lies, lies....

    But what if, in spite of this, it was common belief, for liberals and conservatives alike, that Sadaam Hussein actually HAD developed Weapons of Mass Destruction, was connected to Al Qaeda, and was an imminent threat to us; therefore, our invasion/occupation of Iraq was completely justified?

    Imagine that it was such a "given" that the administration and the media were telling us all we needed to know that we steadfastly went along with their masquerade? And if we ran across bits of information that contradicted the official story, we would ignore it, much as a conservative will ignore the facts that a liberal gives them because they conflict with their established world view.

    In such a scenario, the pressure to believe the conventional wisdom would be so intense that few would have the courage to express their doubts publicly ... to their friends, family, and fellow liberals. And those occasional musings from people who've stumbled on news stories or websites or books that doubted the official Bush story would be denounced as lies and crackpot theories.

    Thankfully, we know that the war was unjustified and was based on lies. But think for a minute.... are there any other assumptions that we as Americans from all over the political spectrum hold? Beliefs about the world that we live in that might actually have been manipulated by the Bush/Cheney administration and the media? Are there any tidbits of information that we have run across in the last few years that just don't quite stack up, but we ignore because they contradict our established beliefs? Is there anything that a few daring souls are starting to espouse, only to be shot down, by the likes of both Kos AND Hannity?

    Perhaps it's time to start questioning some of the beliefs that we hold about our world since Bush entered office and the reason he has been able to remain President in spite of our efforts. If enough of us start to question our assumptions, as I recently did, we might start noticing, and even welcoming, new perspectives about the current administration. We might discover something that would turn the tide against the neo-cons in a big way if it got out. Maybe we can start talking to our friends and fellow progressives about it rather than worrying about what they will think of us if we discuss such matters.

    Our leaders are far worse than most of us can admit to ourselves, and everything we need to know is out there, just slightly hidden, if we look hard enough. That's all I'm saying for now.

    By Anonymous Slow Boiling Frog, at 5:44 PM  

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    By Blogger Eve, at 10:49 AM  

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