So here we are again, finally after 4 years of waiting another World Cup is upon us. Four intense weeks of euphoria, despair, nerves and the joys of world football await those up to the task.
Like a small boy waiting for Christmas, it seemed like we’d never get there, but then one by one the giveaway signs started to emerge as the weeks shortened. The team photo on the steps of the plane, organising where we’re going to watch the Paraguay game, women on the train talking about the back four and of course, the final crescendo of the all important nationalism.
Over the past few months the news footage, tireless radio phone ins, world cup pullouts and punditry have all been about one thing. Filling in time before 9th June 2006. Come Friday everything will change as the things we discuss, argue and write about will finally be based on something that has actually happened.
On Saturday 10th June, England will face Paraguay in their first group match in Frankfurt. Expectation almost outstrips the anticipation as an entire nation, desperate for some international success, focuses its hopes on a group of young men. Over the next few days I’ll be talking about a few of them, Peter Crouch and David Beckham spring to mind.
At this point my thoughts turn to all those flags that can be seen draped around the stadium during any England campaign. The ubiquitous St Georges flag inscribed along the center in huge white lettering with the origin of choice. Towns like Luton, Rochdale and Plymouth, places full of local boozers like your own, full of people like you glued to TV screens. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, all of those people will be leaping around with unbridled joy spilling lager over each other as they hug complete strangers. Hopefully.
The fact is that football has given us something that religion, politics or education have spent hundreds of years trying to achieve. A sense of community, belonging and togetherness. Ironically the only other thing that beats football in getting people together is war, but lets not go there today at least (2-0!).