The World Cup is just a week away. I approach the tournament with mixed feelings, excited at the prospect of covering such an important event (not to mention the football) but broken-hearted at the shabby way Brazil has planned and prepared. So much more could have been done. So many promises have been broken.
But 99 % of the world doesn’t care if Brazil hasn’t built the metro lines it said it would, or if if the airports are still under construction, or if the new bus lanes turned out to be a fiction peddled by politicians.
They care about football. They want to see their team and their heroes. They want goals, noise, colour, fans doing crazy things. They want to hear commentators screaming “Gooooooooool!” like only South Americans can.
My first World Cup memory came in 1974. I was seven years old and Scotland had qualified for the first time since the 1950s. The opening game was against Zaire and I remember the match was played on a Friday night (the ‘facts’ in all these memories could be totally wrong, but they’re how I clearly remember them).
Throughout my childhood I was a regular at the Boy’s Brigade and only occasionally went to the Cubs (the BBs had a football team and the Cubs didn’t), but for some reason I was at the Cubs that Friday night. It was a beautiful sunny evening, and this being June in northern Europe it was still light at 7pm or 8 pm.
The Akela sent us home early so we could see the game. I’ll never forget her face when she packed us off from the school playground. Or our excitement.
I was too young to really know what the World Cup was all about. It was much smaller then (only 16 teams qualified) and there was none of the commercial madness that surrounds it now.
But I remember how excited I was running home to see Scotland play in the World Cup that glorious Friday night.
I can’t remember much about the game. I’m sure I watched it with my dad in our sitting room. We won 2-0. It was only Zaire, but we won 2-0. Brazil were up next and the possibilities were endless.
It was downhill from there.