This morning I woke up with a sense of anticipation. I didn’t celebrate Christmas as a child, but I imagine this is the feeling kids have when they awake on that winter holiday. But today, the moment my brain re-entered consciousness, the emotions rushed over me as I realized… tomorrow, the World Cup begins. The day before an event like the World Cup is almost greater than the actual tournament. Everything is before you, clean and hermetically sealed in its pretty pre-tournament package, where dreams can still manifest and anything is possible.
Four years is a long time, and yet if feels as if no time has passed since the last World Cup. Germany 2006 was a grand competition, full of excitement and controversy. In fact, it probably comprised the most controversial moment in recent sports history as Zinedine Zidane gave new meaning to the phrase “use your head” in a sporting context. The tournament began with a bang as host Germany’s Philipp Lahm scored a blinder to let everyone know how and why this is the biggest event on the planet. That was the moment I woke up and knew just how special this tournament is.
After an immensely heated and controversial final, I took all the pleasure I experienced over the previous four weeks and locked it into my memory. “Until next time” I told myself. Next time is finally here and once again I get to escape my life and enjoy something so visceral that there are no words to describe it. Granted, this is how I feel about football in general. My club team brings fourth a fire from inside me that I didn’t even know existed until I met them. I love, I hate, I cry, I smile, I scream, I cheer, I throw things. Over the years, many an innocent pillow has been hurled violently at the TV. But for every pillow, there’s been ten times as many jubilant wails. The pure elation, as mentioned earlier, is utterly indescribable.
The last World Cup revealed to me that this feverish enthusiasm was not, as I had previously thought, reserved solely for my club team, but for the country I supported as well. Sadly, they met their World Cup maker in the form of Portugal in the quarter-finals. After an intense penalty shoot-out in which I was poised rigidly in front of the television, I fell to my knees and began to cry. I don’t cry often, and I never dreamed I would be the type of person to cry over sports, but there I found myself, alone and shedding tears for a country that I loved and whose dreams I just witnessed shatter to pieces.
Again, fast forward four years. Despite my own life changing dramatically, the love I felt for my team the day they were knocked out is still very prevalent and raring to go. The butterflies in my stomach continue to flap their wings every time I think about the moment the first whistle is blown in South Africa. My team don’t kick off until Saturday, but tomorrow I will be tuned in and shut off to the outside world as soon as the tournament tells me it’s time to begin. I arose this morning with a fraught feeling of anxiety, and continued my day wondering what the next four weeks will bring to my life. Tonight, as I lay my head on a pillow that will more than likely be launched at the TV in the coming weeks, I can rest easy. Rest easy in the knowledge that I am on the precipice of witnessing the greatest sporting event of all time, with the whole of the world watching over my shoulder. This is the feeling that I want to hold on to, and the one I will remember fondly as the next World Cup rears its beautiful head in another mere four years time.