Friday 11 June 2010

Get your flags out.

The World Cup began today with the eyes of the planet on Johannesburg as South Africa kicked off against Mexico.  That the hosts scored a great goal is pleasing, Mexico threatened to run away with the game in the first half but just about scraped a 1-1 draw with the South African's coming so close to winning it in the last minute.

AT (@maverick99sback) has written a great piece today about the World Cup and the weird disparity there is between being an England fan and the supporter of a club that has players playing within the team.  Do I feel the same way?  Not really.  I'm chuffed that Steven Gerrard is captain, he's one of my heroes but if Rooney had been captain and who knows if Gerrard picks up a knock or a suspension he still might get the chance, it wouldn't change how much I supported my Country.  For me it's a England and Liverpool.  Not one above the other.  If England win the World Cup the explosion of joy within me will be the same as it was when Liverpool lifted the Champions League, I may well burst with pride.

I agree with Ads though some people just don't get the football thing or understand how unifying it can be.  I genuinely hope that South Africa get through their group because the team being successful is going to be such a big deal for your average black South African.  Yes there was hope after they won the Rugby World Cup but that was almost a vindication of the previous regime, Rugby is still perceived as a white man's game and part of the elites character, football can change that.  It's a sport that two people can play against one another, at it's root is such a simple sport and it's that simplicity that makes it so accessible.

Equally people forget very quickly what South Africa was like twenty years ago.  It's incredibly easy to criticise but it's a country still in transition, still figuring out how to blend two cultures that were savagely kept at arms length from one another for so long.  The problems there may never be fully resolved, clearly there is still much disparity but something like a World Cup can bring some form of unity and parity even if it's just screaming at a TV together as a last minute toe poke strikes the woodwork and rolls agonisingly back out.

The World Cup is a huge money maker every four years but it still feels special.  There's something old school about it, something pure.  I don't think it's easily definable, football has evolved so much over the last twenty years but the emotions and hope are the same as they were back in 1990 and the teams characteristics still feel remarkably similar to how they did back then.  Indeed push it back even further and that still holds true.

We all want a world that doesn't want to beat the crap out of itself.  One that doesn't live in fear of a suicide bomber, or a state developing nuclear arms, or man with a gun taking a drive around Cumbria.  Maybe one day we'll get that, but for me this is my chance to shout for 'my' Country not because I think we're better than anyone else but just because I can.  I don't begrudge anyone a flag on their car or a flag on their twitter avatar (despite my teasing).  Seriously, support your country wherever you are from.  This is the World Cup for gods sake.

Get your flags out for the lads!


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