There are less than 100 days to go now until Brazil kicks off the 2014 World Cup. As a Spurs fan, a supporter of a team whose season is pretty much over, I can’t wait for the world’s best players to turn up in Rio, Sao Paulo, Manaus and all parts in between.
I managed to make it to the last two World Cups, in Germany and South Africa, but I won’t be in Brazil. My wife and I are due to have our third kid in a couple of months and a one income family just can’t support another mouth as well as feed my football passion. That’s a shame, but one of the big things I learnt from 2006 and 2010 is that a World Cup is so much better when your country is there and that died a proper death when we played Mexico. So I’ll watch it on the box with everyone else on the planet.
Both Germany and South Africa were ideally set up for the visiting footballing spectator. They are not geographically huge, so different cities and grounds were easy to get to. In Germany, the train system is so, well, German, you can get anywhere you want in next to no time. We travelled from Munich to Hannover to Hamburg to Cologne for various games and it was so damn easy. Just perfect.
In South Africa, I was based in Pretoria, in a hotel on the door step of Loftus Versfeld and an easy bus ride to five other grounds. South Africa had the added bonus of being relatively difficult to get to, meaning not as many people travelled making it very easy to get tickets to games. That meant it was possible to watch some football just about every other day. That won’t happen again. Ever.
Brazil, on the other hand, is massive and I can only imagine how difficult the logistics will be. In fact that, along with the cost, is mainly why I won’t be there in person.
I was lucky enough to watch the winners of the last two World Cups in the group stages. In 2006 I was in Hamburg for Italy’s must-win group game against the Czech Republic. The Azzuri won 2-0 with a late Inzaghi goal right in front of us. To be honest, though, they looked poor and hardly likely to go on and win the whole thing. It’s sometimes amazing how something as nebulous as momentum can build over the course of a couple of weeks.
In South Africa I saw Argentina, with all their superstars, dismantle South Korea at the spectacular Soccer City stadium and immediately proclaimed them as potential winners. Not too much later they were torn to pieces by the Germans. A few days after the Argentina match I watched Spain cruise to an unspectacular win over Chile as they stomped inevitably towards their first title. It wasn’t much of a game, made worse by the discomforts of watching it at the rubbish Loftus Versfeld stadium. Loftus must be, by a long, long way the worst World Cup venue in, well, forever.
So the clock’s ticking. June will be here before you know it and the whole World Cup month will be over even quicker. Despite the deniers, of which there are more than a few here in NZ, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet because it means the most to more people than anything else. That’s a big part of what makes it great. Chinese fans support Brazil, Indian fans support England and Kiwi fans support whoever is winning. You don’t get that in (m)any other sports.
Who’s going to win? I can’t offer anything original here. It’ll probably be the hosts but just imagine if someone, maybe even Uruguay, gets up and does a Uruguay to them in the final.
That’s the sort of story you only get in football. And it’s those sorts of stories I’m hoping for in a few months time.