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Living On Three Continents: Fear of Football - The World Cup

Susan Siddeley spares a trepidatious thought for the tiny underdogs of football in the forthcoming World Cuo in South Africa.

It’s here again. In your face. World Cup Soccer. Interviews, matches, roars of GOOOOOAAAAL.

They bring it all back. The school yard.

With a gut-churning shrill of a bell back then, classroom order and control was gone. We were thrown out onto the concrete yard. There, in the free-for-all, duty teachers – read referees – always puffed up after the infractions. And the Head, like FIFA, rarely acted on reported intimidation, shoving or sly aggression.

It felt like that in 2006, watching Paraguay being slaughtered in the opening round. Paraguay, a tiny, land-locked country of three million. Male population decimated in the land-grabbing Chaco Wars. No toughening sea to swim in. Where’s the athletic base? England, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, three thousand miles of coastline, male population - thirty million.

The Population Explosion still worries me. I used to pore over my atlas, comparing land sizes, so sorry for small countries, only too familiar with the way of things from recess. I never bought David and Goliath. David might have felled a giant. It was a fluke man! He wasn’t sent flying for a wrong look, slammed against a wall, jumped on with only a lump of coke to grab. And, on top of us losing to a bullying attack, our mums laid into us again when we got home and tried to explain torn clothes.

I trembled also for mini Togo and petite Ivory Coast. When they lost their games, I wanted to cry, “It doesn’t matter, Loves.” Wondered if the team mothers were watching, sick with apprehension that their sons might be targeted. Shot even. The poor, poor man who enabled the first England goal. The shame. His unborn children, scarred.

And here we are again for the upcoming 2010 championship. In true Maradona style, Thierry of powerful France, palming the ball, facilitating a goal against Ireland. Desert giants, Algeria and Egypt, surely practising on poor, parched fields, kicking off, desperate to get at each other. Columbia and Venezuela. Andean countries where soccer, the simplest of sports, requiring only flat ground, cleats, shirt and shorts, should brighten life. Where, instead of playing for joy, teams pander to stands of supporters full of ill-will and political resentment. Father might have yelled, “Yer off side Ref. get some glasses,” but he potted home for his tea after the match. He didn’t go roaming the streets looking for revenge.

I want to yell, “Hey, you size-challenged countries look at your reserves before you march into battle or play International Football.” For that’s what it amounts to. Numbers. Sheer numbers.

And, does the world really have 214 countries now? My school atlas had less than 150.

Think, and quake for England, never mind Paraguay! For Canada, Iraq (Iraq!) Afghanistan - is Afghanistan even a country these days?

Wait, Uruguay is through! Uruguay, a country the size of Wales, whose name no-one can spell let alone remember, through to the 2010 South African World Cup. Wow.

Will I dare watch?

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To enjoy more of Susan's deliciously readable words please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/living_on_three_continents/

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