So the World Cup starts today. And I hope it goes well. I feel like this year something could really go tits up, and I don't just mean waking up today to this terrible story.
World Cups evoke memories. They are reminders of where I was and what was happening in the world. For a while I could say the same of the Olympics but that's dropped by the wayside for me.
So here's my little trip down memory lane. Starting with the 1970s.
1974. Just a kid.
All I know is my dad was on the mend after breaking his leg. Later I'd see footage of Zaire spazzing out, East and West Germany playing against each other, and Scotland fucking up, but none of these images were played out live to my 4 year old eyes.
1978. Scotland fuck-up again.
Beaten 3-1 by Peru in their Red Strip kit. Teófilo Cubillas destroyed them. I watched the game at my Uncle John and Aunt Marlene's house. They had a 2 year old, and I remember the chaos of trying to watch the game with a screaming kid (Melonie) in the background.
Later that week Scotland drew 1-1 with Iran, at the time Iran still had a Shah, but the writing was on the wall for him.
I thought, "How can these footballers, who I watch on TV in the UK each week, perform so poorly against these amateurs?" These were the days before every national coach uttered the robotic phrase, "There are no easy games in World football". In '78 there were easy games ... and Scotland should have hammered Iran.
Then on a Sunday night at home I watched little Archie Gemmill weave his magic through the Dutch defence to beat them 3-2.
But the 2nd Dutch goal meant that Scotland still went out ... and home. The coach resigned/canned. The usual heartbreak, and embarrassment (mostly for their dreadful World Cup song). Earlier Willie Johnston was sent home for failing a doping test. Hey fever remedy was the excuse.
The tournament was held in Argentina. Huge ticker tape welcomes for all the teams. The pitch for the final had more paper than grass (to my 8 yr old eyes).
Argentinian striker Mario Kempes was the star of the show. And their coach was a chain smoker.
At the time I was naive to the fact that Argentina won their last game before the final under shady circumstances. They beat Peru 6-0 to progress to the final. The wide margin of victory edged out Brazil on goal difference. Days, months and years later it was suggested that Peru were convinced to throw the game, and in return they received financial aid from the ruling junta in Argentina.
A few years later Britain would go to war with Argentina, but before that some of their players would move to England and play in our league. Ardilles and Villa were not the first overseas stars, but they were the most high profile. They were World Cup winners!
Finally, Clive Thomas. A Welsh referee. A legend. A douchebag. He blew for time in the Brazil vs Sweden game. The ball was a split second from traveling from Zico's head into the Swedish goal. It would have been a winner. Wanker!