I don’t know, maybe it’s me –or is it? The World Cup is imminent once more, we’re back in Brazil (which will have the rare and high honour of hosting the next Olympics too, in 2016) …and I’m just not hearing anything. No one’s screaming or talking about the new magical Coke ad, or painting their face, or wearing (let alone purchasing) footballer shirts with their favourite player’s name printed on the back. Hell, my ‘local’ hasn’t rolled out the red carpet as it usually does, setting up 3 million extra, extra-wide TV screens, advertising beer at throwaway prices during matches, and reorganising the food court to accommodate as many thirsty and hungry rabid football fans as possible. I’m rather… shocked.
Usually, World Cup season is a great time for meeting people, as set tables in public establishments don’t exist anywhere in Nairobi, really. You find a seat? You SIT on it, and do everything to keep it, including bribing the guys on both sides of you with alcohol to preserve it when you absolutely can’t hold it any more, and have to go to the bathroom. Even anti-people people like me can’t help getting into conversation with the rest of the table, as we all cheer (or groan) for a goal, then are irresistibly compelled to discuss it. “Winners” buy rounds for complete strangers, and “Losers” refuse to be discouraged, encouraging each other with predictions for the next match. From time to time, fans five tables away break into full-throated football song, which eventually dies out as quickly as it began. Waiters and barmen are literally run off their feet, and the welcoming smiles with which they began the day have reversed direction by midnight –and still, there are orders. World Cup season is excellent in Nairobi, because the time differences usually mean that Nairobians can watch all of their favourite matches after work, and late into the night.
In the tradition of our family, we always sit together for the Opening Night, and the first match of every World Cup, whatever it is. Brazil v Croatia on Thursday 12th may be a walkover for Brazil, but we’ll cheer as heartily as any native Brazilian, as they win on their own turf. Friday 13th holds no interesting matches for me, however many will probably settle to watch Spain v Netherlands, the second match of the day. My next match of interest will be England v Italy, the last match of Saturday 14th, an irresistible mix of talent and good looks… at least on Italy’s side, which I shall cheer for. My resulting sore throat will welcome a rest on Sunday, during which no matches appeal. Monday will bring a complete reversal in this situation, as I plan to rush from work in good time to settle down for both Germany v Portugal (on Portugal’s side) then Ghana v USA, during which the Ghanaians will no doubt remind the Americans the definition of what they call “Football”, which isn’t that of the rest of the world. Tuesday 17th will be another ‘blah’ day for me, though I might just watch Belgium v Algeria, if I’ve nothing else to do (no favourites there.) On Wednesday, the whole of Africa will probably gather to watch Cameroon v Croatia, taking over from Europeans and Australians, who will be recovering from Australia v Netherlands. I myself am more interested in Thursday’s first match, Colombia v Ivory Coast, in which I shall staunchly support the Ivorians. Later, Uruguay v England sounds like it will be well worth staying up for. Surprisingly, Friday 20th offers nothing of interest, but this may be a good thing, as my lungs will have to be in order for Germany v Ghana of Saturday evening (supporting Ghana.)
I won’t stay up on Sunday for USA v Portugal, trusting the Portuguese to do Their Thing, and in Style. On Monday, however, I shall sit bright-eyed and bushy-tailed cheering for both Cameroon and Brazil as they face each other in one of the two second matches of the day. Tuesday brings another occasion to scream in Italian (mostly things like “Che bello quello!” “VAI ____!!!” and “FORZA!!!”
Exhaustion will not stop ANY African from watching Nigeria v Argentina on Wednesday 25th, whether or not the result induces loss of voice-box or mental derangement or both. Indeed, mental derangement is slated for those fans who will sit flicking indecisively between Portugal v Ghana and USA v Germany on Thursday. I may be one of them. THEN, the Last Stretch. Quarter Finals end on Saturday 5th July, just in time to allow me to mourn my birthday in peace on the 6th. On the 8th Semi Finals begin, leaving us breathless right up until Sunday the 13th, day of THE FINAL.
I really hope that the World Cup Spirit will pick up. I know the game’s gone down, and changed as it has done so (indeed, some of the teams that have qualified and those who failed to qualify this year are absolute SHOCKERS.) But COME ON! It’s the WORLD CUP!!! It’s paint your boobs time! It’s waving flags time!!! It’s national anthems time!!! YEYYYYYY!!!