Headed to the stadium, went through the usual ordeal to get to Soccer City, and at this point my friend Adolfo (the only Real Madrid and Fulham season ticket holder I know) went to buy some beers while I waited watching one of the TV screens in the access to the lower level of the stadium, a good three hours before kick off. Then they showed a short montage with goals scored in World Cup Finals: Kempes, Zidane, Pele, Ronaldo Fenomeno… I thought I had already fully processed the magic of this event, but no. I started crying again. Adolfo brought me the beers and, obviously, started laughing at me. ‘This is what Fulham have done to you’, I told him, ‘you’ve lost your feelings…’
2) The Saint Thomas Award to the Lack of Trust goes to myself again. I have to make a confession: in every single match (including the final!) I have at some point screamed for Del Bosque to replace Iniesta. Yes, I know, what the hell was I thinking? The fact is that he has not played a full match at the level he can undoubtedly play for the whole tournament. When I see him play at 70% capacity, I get frustrated. During the final, he passed on two clear chances to take a shot, which really got on my nerves… until he took the shot he had to take…
3) The Kobra Kai Award to the Most Unbearable Winner goes to myself. And yes, I just awarded the first three prizes to myself, which would make me the James Cameron of Alternative Awards, only if Cameron had handed out all those Oscars to himself. In any case, do you remember that gorgeous red track top which Spanish players wore during the national anthems? My friend Kate presented me with one of those. Planning all this carefully, yesterday morning I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare (first time ever) and walked around proudly showing off my Spanish colours to the whole building. I even dared to speak to three huge Germans who were having a pint, and told them that they had been great competitors for the last two years, that their time will come and that their future is great. At this point, I thought one of them was going to kill me with his bare hands, but the Löw spirit prevailed and he kept his cool. No one who passed by the Joburg airport between 12 and 4 on Monday could possibly avoid me and my track top. We were everywhere. We were obnoxious. We were despicable. It was GREAT!
4) The Julio Iglesias Award to the Most Iconic Spaniard goes to Saint Iker Casillas. Not only he handed Spain the tournament with superhuman performances against Paraguay, Germany and Holland, but he also kissed his girlfriend, the stunning reporter Sara Carbonero, live in national TV while she was interviewing him. He’s the man, no doubts about that.
5) The Heathrow Airport Award to the Worst Logistics goes to the Soccer City Stadium. I have already written about how painful it is to get there, and especially how insufferable it is to get out of there. Despite my early warnings, Adolfo (who, incidentally, works at Heathrow; you couldn’t make this stuff up, call it poetic justice) couldn’t believe the shambolic process. This time we waited in line for 90 minutes after the end of the celebrations on the pitch just to get to the bus that would take us to our car. In any case, that didn’t diminish our thirst of celebration, so to speak. But if I may, I would like to suggest that commuting to and from Soccer City should be added as a new punishment for criminals in South Africa. Believe me, they’ll learn the lesson.
6) The Gaby Heinze Award to the Most Unjustifiable Dive goes to Fernando Torres. Spain lead 1-0, and there’s only two minutes left. Casillas sends a long Jabulani (with all its implications) to the Liverpool striker, who is about to dominate the ball, but suddenly falls down in pain. The Dutch get the ball back and waste their last offensive option to tie the match.
My point: when your team is seconds away from winning their first World Cup ever, and they need to hold on to the ball as much as possible, only the complete physical separation of an entire leg justifies falling down and therefore losing possession. Let me make that point again: not a pull, not a strain, but physical separation of a leg. Can you imagine Torres future had Holland scored? Not even Heinze himself would have dived there, and that’s why this prize will take Torres’ name from now on.
7) The Mr Wolf Award to the Most Resourceful Man goes to my friend Luis, who’s the direct responsible for the fact that I end up getting tickets for Word Cup finals, Champions League matches, etc. Just because of his array of contacts and how he’s introduced me to the whole Spanish media, he’s responsible for at least 50% of the info that I mention in my weekly columns and this blog. After more than two years helping me out, he thoroughly deserved his own mention.
8) The LA Lakers Ticket Distribution Award to the Largest Amount of Fair-Weather fans and Celebrities in the stadium. I know that World Cups necessarily attract fair-weather fans, corporate types or even people who don’t know anything about the sport, but FIFA should at least make an effort to reward the die-hard supporters who go to the stadium to support their teams week in, week out every single season. I know it’s the way that the market works, but it’s painful to see some of the people who were there on Sunday, gifted to watch such a unique event, but who didn’t even know what would happen after regulation time finished 0-0 (the two ladies in front of me, for instance). At some point I was half expecting to see Leo, Denzel and Jack in the Jumbotron… Just give me a section of the stadium devoted exclusively to season ticket holders of clubs from the two finalists at special prices. Come on, Blatter, it won’t cost you that much and will make the show even better.
One more thought about tickets: when we arrived in the stadium, our first impression was kind of shocking. Because of the (bizarre) way in which FIFA allocate the tickets, there were no sections of Holland fans or Spain fans, but they were mixed around the stadium. This makes it difficult to get some chants going and disincentives competition between supporters, which is always fun to watch. This wasn’t the case in Euro08, for instance, and I am sure there is a way to make it work in a World Cup as well.
9) The Four Leaf Clover Award to the Best Good Luck Charm goes to my Euro08 Spain shirt. My aforementioned friend Luis gave it to me as a present before the tournament started. I wore it to every single live match (all, except for the semi-final), with perfect results (five wins). Last year I took it to the Confed Cup, wore it to watch two matches (vs. New Zealand and vs. Irak), another two wins. Inexplicably, I forgot to wear it for the semi-finals against the US, and Spain lost.
During the season, I made the mistake of playing football wearing such an invaluable talisman, and one of my opponents tore the shirt in half (same week as …). Did you think that was the end of it? No! I got it kind of sewn – it looks awful, but at least I can wear it. Came with me to watch Honduras, Chile, Portugal and Paraguay, and then the final against the Netherlands. Its record is an impressive 12-0. I guess it’s time for retirement.
10) The Luciano Bennetton Award to the Most Provoking Advertising Campaign goes to Jenna Clifford. This jewellery designer has infected the most important roads and crossings of Joburg with stunning pictures of black models wearing (maybe ‘only wearing’ would be a more accurate way to describe it) her products. Hard to keep your eyes on the road. At least, to me it was impossible. Between that, the right-handed wheel and the shift gear, the fact that I didn’t have several car accidents is just a miracle. Just like Spain winning their first World Cup!!!
Well, this entry marks the end of my blog for this World Cup. Right now, my sense of relief is beyond words. In only two years, Spain broke every single curse and won two huge tournaments in extremely convincing fashion. I have had the privilege to watch both events live in the company of my best two friends, so there’s not much more I could ask for… It’s now time to rest, disconnect for a good month and wait to discover the feeling of playing a major tournament without the weight of the theoretical underachievement over our shoulders.
I wanted to thank you all for following this blog, taking the time to read and in many cases to send me comments, suggestions or jokes. It has been a wonderful month personally, even more rewarding knowing that everyone of you has been taking a look at the site every once in a while to see what I had been up to.
Muchas gracias por todo. A recently crowned World Champion wishes you the best of luck.