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Measuring your life in World Cup milestones

7 June ~ ITV once produced an excellent trailer for their World Cup coverage – no seriously, they did – showing how a man progressed through his life via the key milestone of each World Cup. So we see him as a child celebrating England's 1966 triumph, as a youngish man looking devastated when Chris Waddle fires a penalty into orbit in 1990, all the way through to him in the modern day; watching a game in the office with work colleagues, now that he's become a middle-aged, serious person.

The advert worked because it resonated with the impact the World Cup has on our lives. Think back to any previous tournament, and we can instantly recall how we watched it and what was going on in our wider life. As a child I remember rushing home from school to watch the late afternoon/early evening kick-offs. For France 98 I had just completed my GCSEs, so was in the rare position of having nothing to do but sit at home and watch every game. By Japan/South Korea in 2002 I was at university and, just like any typical student, struggling to haul myself out of bed for the horribly-early morning kick-offs – even though it only involved walking downstairs and plonking myself on a couch, with nothing else to do for the day but a couple of end-of-term essays.

For Germany 06 I was that bit more grown up, in the beginnings of fashioning a career and working in an office. I was part of a small team who were all female, apart from my boss, and not interested in football. So when I booked every afternoon off for three weeks so I could watch all the matches, no one raised an eyebrow or resented me, save for my jealous manager. It was a glorious arrangement. Go into work for a few hours, then be home by lunch time for Togo v Switzerland. And it barely put a dent in my holiday allowance.

Four years on and in the same role, I was initially able to make similar arrangements to enjoy the South Africa tournament. That is until I successfully applied for another job, with a start date of this week, which has thrown my World Cup schedule into tatters. It means this will probably be the tournament where I see the least amount of live action.

I can hardly begin my new job asking for half days and slinking off home every lunchtime for three weeks, when there's the ropes to learn and a strong first impression to attempt to make. While the group matches are played out at 12.30pm and 3pm every day, I will be stuck in the office trying to look busy at my computer screen – subtly checking online for the latest scores when no one's looking. I'll still get to watch a live game every evening of course, but it's hardly the festival of football I've been used to.

And so a ITV World Cup trailer starring me would feature the cliched excitable youngster amazed by the exoticness of Maradona and Alexi Lalas's beard; a bleary-eyed student lounging about in tracksuit bottoms inside a rat-infested messy house; and an office worker symbolically throwing his tie to the ground as he got home at 12pm on a weekday afternoon, not quite believing his luck. But my 2010 scene will be that of someone reluctantly working late in a pathetic attempt to impress the new boss, cursing the fact we all have to grow up eventually. Jason McKeown

Comments (20)
Comment by Paul S 2010-06-07 11:58:53

This is a very good comment actually and is very similar to the point Nick Hornby makes by writing Fever Pitch. Foobtall fans don't think in years they think in seasons. They relate their clubs success / failure to their own personal life and what was happening in it. We can do the same with World Cups and European Champioships - it defines who we were at that point in time.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-06-07 12:24:51

Given his intention to "trying to look busy at my computer screen – subtly checking online for the latest scores when no one's looking," I do hope "Jason McKeown" is a pseudonym.

Comment by Leon Tricker 2010-06-07 13:22:59

I like this article. I have vivid recollections of all World Cups and where I was in my life when they came around.

One immediately comes to mind:

I was 16 at the time of the 1994 tournament, about to leave school, and I can remember discussing mates what it would be like in 2010 because we would be twice the age we were.

Well, here I am, and thinking back to those conversations has brought a tear to my eye!

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2010-06-07 13:57:00

On the initial point about ITV making a good trailer once, they obviously didn't use the same people for this year's awful attempt to hook me. The thought of a huge warehouse rave with a load of sweaty twenty-somethings (even if the women are showing a serious amount of arse) with Vernon Kay in charge of the decks and James 'More Omnipresent Than God' Corden charging around sounds like a good excuse to stay at home and watch the games on the BBC to me. I guess that this tournament represents the point on my life journey where I move past the target audience for broadcasters and advertisers and turn over to Countdown.

Comment by Leon Tricker 2010-06-07 14:42:05

That advert is just for Corden's evening show isn't it, rather than ITV's coverage? I'm 32 and am not, and never have been, the target audience for that kind of thing.

However, it is clear for all to see that in amongst the girls, the sweat, and the fresh young faces that Adrian Chiles fits right in...

It'll be the BBC's daily highlights show for me.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-06-07 14:42:45

Being 28 years old, this resonates with me as I have the exact same progression through the world cups. This year I have a week in the UK before going to South Africa but that means this first week is going to be spent listening on the radio frantically trying to finish work before I go away.
However this is not as devastating as it once would have been. Along the same sort of line as Jonny_Bananas, I am getting to the point where I dislike the world cup. I am tired of it being hijacked by random celebs, like James Cordon, pushing their own agenda and getting cheap laughs out of it e.g. the hilarious "England will go out at the quarters on penalties, but seriously…" gag when asked how they will get on. That and the ridiculous amount of adverts featuring gurning England fans yelling towards the camera with both fists clenched as if suffering the after effects of a curry the night before.

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2010-06-07 15:31:02

Don't get me wrong, I love the World Cup. I have done nothing but read books and stats and watch you tube clips for the past month (and will no doubt continue to do so for the next few weeks) so the sooner the tournament starts the better. Since the early days of Fantasy Football, the 'sideways' view of the tournament hasn't really worked and all ITV seem to do is pay Corden a load of money and say "Look at him! He's fat! Imagine him playing football. Look!" as they did on Soccer Aid.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-06-07 16:21:04

Sorry, I didn't mean you disliked the world cup, just the reasons I am starting to is the things you mention. I need to make a better effort to disasociate all the guff of a world cup from the actual football, something that gets harder every year.
As for Corden, the way he is suddenly Mr Comedy of sport is beyond me.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-06-07 17:20:54

Great article.
In 90,98,02 and 06 I watched nearly all the games.
I only watched about a third of the games in 1994 due to work commitments (I even missed the Final that year,but apparently I didnt miss much..!!)
But the third matchday of the group stages,really buggers me up when they have the 2 matches in the group on at the same time.
In 1998 I watched 56 of the 64 games live and it wouldd have been more but for the final group matchday arrangement.
And yes I have got a job......!!!!

Comment by Kowalski Francescoli 2010-06-07 20:03:53

I remember glimpses of Czechosolvakia versus somebody from Espana ’82 but little else. I seemed to enjoy Mexico '86 (Luis Fernandez you’re my hero) but this one‘s a bit hazy too. My memories may have been limited at this stage but my love was total. Ladybird books were my Mills and Boon, Panini provided the glue in our relationship and a film called Hero was my Pretty Woman.

For some reason I was thrilled by Italia'90 and I tried not to miss a game. It was all great; the rush home to watch Cameroon v Argentina, supporting Germany, cursing Gary Lineker for scoring the second penalty against Cameroon and marvelling at Yugoslavia v Argentina. With help from Match I kept a world cup log book.

Following USA '94 led to my unexpected failure in the lower sixth exams, watching Holland v Saudi Arabia at midnight isn't ideal preparation. My main interests were cheering on Romania's opponents and hoping that Italy would get dumped on their arses (my smug mate had tipped them). Seeing a goal collapse in a Mexico-Bulgaria match and watching the Police chase OJ during the Switzerland v USA indoor match are two of my more cherished memories from this tournament. One month after the tournament ended I left my school, shamefaced and dishevelled.

I was in Universities (both in the midlands)for 1998 and 2002. During this time I slowly fell out of love with the simple joy of watching international football because the world cup now seemed to transform erudite sophisticates into laddish xenophobes.

During the last two world cups I have gradually noticed the taint of hysteria and this has put me off even further.

This time I'm trying to ignore the world cup but resistance is futile when you're surrounded by gingerbread men wearing rice paper England kits.

If my world cup life-timeline has shown anything it's my early descent into grumpiness.

Comment by SydneyToon 2010-06-08 00:36:42

Good article.

1986 was my first World Cup, 11 years old, begging my parents to stay up to watch England 0 Morocco 0.

Since 1994, I've been in the wrong time zone for the World Cup. In 1998 & 2006 I was in Australia so all the games were during the night. In 2002, I was back in England, where the whole country found out what it was like to endure strange kick-off times. 2002 was the best for me personally, because you can't beat watching England-Sweden over cooked breakfast and beers in a pub in Windsor, or England 3 Denmark 0, in a pub in Ealing on a glorious Saturday afternoon chanting Sven's name!!

Comment by Arthur Nibble 2010-06-08 09:21:10

I sympathise with Jason. I'll be a limited edition World Cup webbie for a different reason.

Due to my wife not wanting to go on holiday when I preferred, I'm spending the first week of the tournament visiting my in-laws in a country that didn't qualify for the finals (Bosnia-Hercegovina) and whose TV coverage will probably be less expansive than over here and will certainly in a language I won't understand.

I understand BBC iPlayer doesn't work aboroad, so i'm praying that I can get BBC News and some ESPN 'goalbox' snippets via YouTube on my in-laws' computer. Mind you, I shouldn't complain - the missus did cut our return honeymoon journey in half so I could groundhop a North West Counties League Cup Tie.

Comment by karris 2010-06-08 13:50:49

Just have to say thank-you to the cartoonist who did that wonderful sequence at the top of the article. Had me in stitches, especially the wry 'look at the camera' scene. Fantastic work

Comment by danielmak 2010-06-08 18:11:32

I can understand why the hype surrounding the World Cup can put people off, but this is where the joy of a DVR/PVR can save you. Just start watching 20-30 minutes late and skip through the pre-game and half-time idiocy. Ignore the advertising hype and just focus on the football.

Comment by allabarton 2010-06-09 00:12:14

Great article, absolutely right that we do that. Spain 82 was my first I can really remember. First wall-chart, some clunky ITV thing in the shape of a football. Italia 90 was very special, along with the fact that I'd just finished my degree and was free to watch the whole thing. Sharing a flat with two mates for USA 94, also seem to recall seeing nearly all the games, purely for the football and without the emotional anguish of England involvement. 2002 rather different as I'd just had my first child but the early morning kick offs were fine as I was up anyway. And so on...

Comment by fieryelephant 2010-06-09 04:20:06

Excellent article, just the kind of thing I read WSC for. I remember feeling rather smug in 2002 that I'd just arrived in Australia so got to watch all the games at "normal" times (highlight was England-Argentina in a bar at the MCG after an Aussie rules game). Didn't anticipate that I'd be staying long-term though and I'm now facing my second successive tournament full of middle of the night games...

Comment by Keith100 2010-06-09 12:09:16

Excellent article. Two milestones that stand out for me and I would appreciate confirmation from the great unwashed public on this:

1982 - The first World Cup that people watched en masse in pubs. Why was this or did it just coincide with my first legal pint?

1990 - The first World Cup with a WSC wall-chart.

Is my memory playing tricks with me?

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2010-06-09 13:25:01

Just had a flashback to 1990 and an Orbis weekly magazine which built up week by week into a comprehensive preview of Italia 90 and history of the World Cup. Each Thursday morning my friends and I would compare thought on squads, debate the merits of that week's Golden Goal (frame by frame drawings with LS Lowry style players) and, of course, swap stickers. The sticker collection was split into two halves, firstly a 'blue' set with the teams who had qualified early (or suspected to qualify, hence Denmark's inclusion) and then a second 'red' set for lesser nations. I proudly boasted a near full blue set (Paul Parker for some reason is missing) but must have lost interest with the UAE and Egypt teams as I have hardly any in that set. It must have cost me £30 or £40 for the whole lot, a fortune to a 14 year old at the time, but it still gets dug out from the loft at least once every four years so I can annoy people with the story of how Honduras v El Salvador led to a war or how good a goal Arie Haan scored.

Comment by Capybara 2010-06-09 16:45:36

'1982 - The first World Cup that people watched en masse in pubs. Why was this or did it just coincide with my first legal pint?'

I certainly remember watching some of the 1978 finals in a pub - the Beaufort Arms in Cheltenham to be precise - but because many of the games kicked off around closing time you couldn't actually watch every game there. Also, England weren't in it so there wasn't quite the appetite, where I was anyway.

Comment by italiantsar 2010-06-09 18:51:56

In 2006, I showed up for my cousin bro's wedding a day before the affair and left the very next night, leaving my family behind and heading for home, much to the disgust of all concerned because I wanted English commentary for my Italy matches. (Some demented cable operator had blessed the region that I left with Korean commentary). Relations with my cousin bro are still strained. It didn't help that I was stayin at his place during Euro 2008 and he of course couldn't get a wink of sleep. But he didn't want me to feel awkward and still enquired how the last day's match has gone. A gem of guy. Shame about Italy, though.

On the subject...


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