I was at the World Cup Final

When I was young, I remember that I had my eye set on a particular toy for my birthday. It was James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 as made by Corgi, 1:35 scale model, complete with working rear shield deflector, pop-out machine guns and ejector seat. It was a whopping RM20, and the only way I could really get it was to wait for my birthday. And when my birthday came? Yup, you guessed it. No Aston Martin. Instead, I got a Batmobile with grappling hook and funny siren noisemaker (I think). Nice, but not the same. Sometimes you build up your expectations so much that when you get to the event, it's a bit of a let down.

Going to the World Cup Final was not like that. At all. In case anyone misunderstands me, have no doubt that I thought it was great.

Really great.

Okay, it wasn't perfect. Zidane shouldn't have been so stupid. The Italians should have remembered to keep passing to those guys in blue (BLUE DAMNIT, BLUE!!!). Penalties are no way to settle a World Cup. (My suggestion? Let the managers go head-to-head in an extreme-style deathmatch in the centre circle. It would raise the ratings.)

But otherwise, it was great. I got the ticket through an extremely fortunate set of circumstances, because a friend of my father's was in Germany, and one of the people in the group had to go back early. Actually, there's a little more than that, but I'll leave the whole story to another day.

So (where was I?), a free ticket to watch the World Cup Final. The bus and train trip to the stadium was largely uneventful, but the heart began to beat faster when I saw the Olympic rings at the front entrance.

True, I had been outside the stadium before, but I had never actually stepped into it. Security laughed at Ed (as they always do), and a few moments later, we were in the land of overpriced drinks and walking flag-people.

It's hard to explain what it's like. It feels great, yes. But you must understand that this is something I've wanted to do since I was so young.

In 1982, when Dino Zoff lifted the World Cup, I never imagined that I would even be in the same country as one where it was being held. In 1994, I was in the USA, but harsh distances and a student's budget made it difficult to be part of the game. In 2006, I fulfilled my dream to actually tour a country during the World Cup fever.

To say that watching the final live was like icing on the cake would be like saying that a footballer winning the World Cup is a nice addition to the mantelpiece. It's an understatement of the nth degree. Watching the World Cup Final is something I wasn't even sure I would ever do in my lifetime. And I was here.

If I thought they would let me in with my Alphawriter, I would have been typing this right there, right then. It was amazing.

If I was disappointed with anything, it was the atmosphere. I've been in Bukit Jalil stadium during the Commonwealth games, and that feeling still hasn't been beaten. Yes, there was fervour, but it wasn't as overwhelming as I think it could have been. Perhaps if Germany was in the final, it would have been a different matter.

There has been some talk about World Cup tickets not going to the right people, and I can kind of understand that, but a quick look around in our area (labelled as Category 1, no less), and I maybe saw three who weren't really fans.

Well, the ticket did say Category 1. But I went to another game in Leipzig, and I can swear that in that game, we had very similar seats to the ones we got in the final, and those were Category 2. Perhaps the virtue of it being a final pushed up the value.

They did try to split the crowd into the Italian and French sections, with a large crowd of neutrals in between. I estimate maybe 10% were occupied by uniform swathes, but there was no denying that there were Italian fans peppered in our otherwise Bleu area.

Incidentally, you aren't allowed to brings of any sort into the stadium. It's not just the containers they're worried about, but also what you bring in it. However, this also just happens to be extremely fortunate for all those drink sellers (EUR3.50 plus EUR1 deposit) working within the stadium.

(to be continued...)

Labels: ,

posted on Sunday, July 09, 2006 - permalink
Comments: Post a Comment