The World Cup is coming up fast and I have rather mixed feelings on the matter.
The World Cup and the European Championships have always been a big deal for me and my family. Thanks to our unique situation throughout my childhood, the world stopped essentially for the month. We’d put down our respective, metaphorical tools. We’d arrange easily prepared food to be hastily made during half time and we’d do nothing but watch the games. Right up until the Final.
There’d always be the misguided hope that England would progress to the Final. They never did of course but we still enjoyed the spectacular nonetheless. Euro 96 was my favourite I think. I was 11 and in between games I’d go out with my friends and we’d play football in the street. I was a ‘proper’ football fan while they just tagged along with the hype really but it was excellent. It felt so wonderfully innocent then before life turned too serious with exams and the likes. I was Alan Shearer with every pass of the ball.
I can remember clearly the first goal that England scored against Switzerland. My Dad leapt from the sofa and did an insanely excited dance.
Then there was that Gazza goal against Scotland, engrained in my brain forever.
The last World Cup was nearly as memorable. Life was good back then. Different from 96 of course. I was 21 by this time. Working in a mobile phone shop (the good one, not the awful one). I had good friends, I was earning good money with plenty of freedom, my degree was nearly at an end and I had an exciting future ahead of me in Stafford. I’d just broken up from a man who was bad news for me and I had everything going for me, even if I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with my life.
I couldn’t pull up the drawbridge entirely for this tournament. A couple of times when England was playing, I had to work. My wonderful boss at the time let me come in with an England football shirt then sent me off to buy a portable radio so that I could listen to the match standing outside of the shop. I remember one very Welsh and old couple (sheep farmers, seriously!) approaching me and stating ‘We can’t stand your team normally but you seem nice enough so we hope that you win today’. Interesting couple. For the most part though, people were as interested as me. My workmates included.
Crucially though it was the last World Cup with my Dad.
It feels wrong to have it without him. Something is always missing in this household but it’ll feel like a bigger void without him in June.
Me and my Mum have gradually tried to return to watching football but it’s not the same. It lacks that vibrancy, that spark, that loud and excitable figure shouting enthusiastically at the TV.
We were lucky to not have this problem in Euro 08 as England didn’t qualify. This time round though it feels right and proper to at least try. I thought it’d be easy to do but the nearer it gets, the more I realise what a challenge it’s going to be mentally. I’m sick of challenges.
Still, it’s going to happen wherever I like it or not, so I’ll try. Really need to pick up a wall chart that details all the matches.