Sunday, July 09, 2006

"None shall sleep..."


That moment that finally made the final worthwhile.
After a disappointly mediocre match, a subdued crowd more keen on jeering than cheering, the unhappy shoot-out having to break the stalemate, and the disaster of a departing legend going loco – there’s an almighty tingle as Fabio Grosso’s ball blazes into, almost through, the back of the net and the split-second of realisation suddenly surges: the World Cup has just been won.
Abruptly, the air is filled with pumps of orchestral pomp – glitter and gunpowder shoots upwards into the Berlin sky, showers down on the German grass – darting figures leap, skip, dash and dart maniacally back and forth and nowhere and anywhere, while their lighter-shirted counterparts slump, each in their own loneliest daze – and scurrying, single-minded stewards stream from every entrance, hauling contraptions and shards of a stage, duties to perform upholstering this most emotional of performance art.
Football – the most seriously frivolous thing in town...?
Why, with all the world’s cares and crises put safely out of sight and out of mind, can instead all glorious life seem briefly to sit inside this collision of architectural form and era – the Olympian grandeur (and folly) of Hitler’s Olympic Stadium, all unnecessary columns but all-devouring stands topped off by a bathetic, plastic-looking modern rooftop, a cut-away at one end opening the monster’s mouth towards the city and civilisation beyond, an empty Olympic flame’s seat tonight successively occupied by Toni Braxton, Il Divo, some wackily-outfitted escapees from what seemed a tiresomely-gurning performing arts institute, and then Wyclef Jean and the ever-mesmeric Shakira, all melody sadly swamped within one thudding, muddy pound of artificial drums.
Well, well, why...? I dunno – but I know I didn’t want to leave, staying even for and beyond the inevitable turgid We Are The Champions, and being rewarded for such perseverance by the equally inevitable, infinitely more emotive Nessun Dorma, as player of the tournament, ultimately-vanquishing Italian lion Fabio Cannavaro could no longer keep his granite features quite so impassive anymore, and grinned, just grinned...

Right team, wrong performance. Sadly this was far from the classic final called for, these two occasionally-expressive yet more-often-impenetrable European powerhouses managing to cancel each other out, across the pitch: Gennaro Gattuso sticking close to Zinedine Zidane, or perhaps France happy to force Gattuso back not forwards; Cannavaro allowing the forlorn-in-a-French-shirt Thierry Henry no time to turn; Francesco Totti barely getting a coherent kick thanks to the French back six...
Ah, but Zidane - Zidane, Zidane, Zidane... Un plus nincompoop, ne c'est pas?

Having started the tournament so badly, then returning in such style, here he managed to end at his worst. Not just the match, or the tournament – but his great playing career.
"Outrageous" – one of those words so easily-over-used, like "fantastic", or "sensational", or "absolutely", absolutely.
But tonight, he really was. No longer simply, outrageously talented. But outrageously audacious, with the cheekiest of chipped penalties to – just about – give France an early lead. And two hours later, just outrageously stupid, to hurl the meatiest of headbutts into the chest of involved-in-everything Materazzi, finally "earning" Zizou a long-delayed red card. His final contribution on a football field – that same head that powered those two World Cup-winning headers into the St Denis net back in 1998, now making an irredeemably savage contribution to another, sadder final.
Silly boy – and, with the World Cup’s dirtiest player Henry (I’m only going by Fifa facts, honest...) having just preceded him off the pitch, albeit replaced by a substitute, France were without their two totemic playmaking presences not only for the final minutes, but also the do-or-die shoot-out. When everyone hit the target – except for David Trezeguet, golden-goal match-winner when these met in the Euro 2000 final, who this time merely hit the bar. And unlike Zidane’s earlier ‘normal’ penalty, this one would only, tantalising bounce the wrong side of the line…
So, having stood and dawdled, each alone on the pitch an hour before kick-off, those two American-comedian-(sort-of-)-resembling managers, Marcelo “Larry David” Lippi and Raymond “Eugene Levy” Domenech, again trod the turf even after their players had departed down the tunnel: Lippi no longer with hands jammed in pockets, but arms raised in triumph – Domenech standing stolid and silent, those Sam The Eagle brows barely twitching but the eyes rolling over the celebrations so nearly his own.
And so now for me, time to trudge back to boring reality – after tomorrow’s long drive back to Blighty, picking up those dull, put-off duties of moving home, hunting for a new job, and even – ulp – later this week entering the final dread year of my twenties...
But what a distraction this has been, England’s embarrassments and tonight’s mixed emotions aside...
The World Cup: it really doesn’t matter. But that just makes it matter more…
But each one must end. As a commentator once famously said, as he drew down the curtain on one more World Cup final...

... "Das Spiel ist aus!" (Well, it makes a change from the usual one...)

3 comments:

a.c.t said...

Apparently it was a nipple tweak, but Materazzi must have called him something very offensive for him to react like that. Suppose we'll find out more later...Welcome back by way.

a.c.t said...

* by the way. Am feeling a bit on the shaky side after yestetday's festivities.

* (asterisk) said...

Nice entry. Hello... I'm new to these parts.