The World Cup – A Settler’s Perspective


I have long detested football and the ball has returned my hate in any number of ways. As a child I made some half-hearted attempts to play but it was not to be. I don’t believe that I ever scored a goal, though if my foot rarely found the ball, my face often did.  When teams were chosen I would invariably be everyone’s last choice, told to stay in defense, that I might cause as little damage as possible.

Nor was I any more successful as a spectator. The game has always bored me, however, when so many of my friends were obsessed with the various teams they supported, I was left with no choice but to choose one of my own. I have and had no idea why but it was Manchester United. The year was 1971 and there was little poor Tommy Docherty could do. Sure enough, within three years the legendary squad had been relegated to the second division. I felt quite awful for having passed my curse on to the Red Devils.

The years have passed and marrying an Argentinean woman changed nothing. My sons are quite athletic and both play football occasionally. Considering the  genes they inherited, their relative success is worthy of note.

Today my association with football consists of watching one match every four years – namely the world cup. Invariably the team I select for victory loses. I often fall asleep while they are doing so.

This year on an impulse I decided to invite some friends to see the finals together. This writer is an ideal person to call on for the match as I’m an excellent host when I’m bored. I found time during play to bake homemade pizzas from scratch as well as serving all manner of tasty snacks and beverages. My eldest son and his wife honored us with their presence, the latter dozed off within minutes. He had made a fine choice.

Children’s author and chess expert Nick Kopaloff and his son Liam joined us and slept over the night while Jewish priest, 100 meter sprinter and software genius Moshe Goldman crossed the Green line too, with his boy Assaf.

We Jews are fickle lot and nobody seemed to have any strong preferences between Holland and Spain. Jewish history had no opinion either as the Inquisition is apparently long forgiven, while Holland’s image as a Holocaust good-guy has been severely tarnished of late.  It was clear that whoever would be the first team score would be the proud recipient of all our cheers and support. Israelis love to back a winner.

As the evening went on, the game seemed to be even more tedious than usual. The kids were playing chess, young Ariel Ben-Yosef beat all comers, hardly surprising seeing as he’s about twice their age. I delighted all with my scrumptious salmon pâté and eggplant dip. There was some semi-serious drinking, though no intoxication.

The score was still zero-zero and looked everything like a game going to penalties, so the time had come for my expert analysis. Mustering up all my skills as an ex-chess columnist I explained to all who would listen, that it appeared that both teams were lacking in any overall, coherent strategy. However, without doubt the first team to get the ball in the net would be going home with the cup. History recognized the wisdom of my prediction. Unfortunately, my loved ones were less kind and told me to shut up. Woe is the genius who is unrecognized in his own lifetime.

Eventually the inevitable happened and someone scored, by chance the man was a Spaniard. We all jumped for joy and Liam Kopaloff and my eldest daughter Dina broke out into a spontaneous chorus of “Spain! Spain!” Sadly, the name has but one syllable and hardly lends itself to being chanted, so the shouting soon faded out, and that was that.

It was a funny old World Cup from this settler’s perspective. At the beginning a South American team seemed certain to win, the only question being which. Later the Germans humiliating victory over Argentina made them appear all but invincible. After Spain’s defeat of the Hun I ran of interest and was supporting nobody, so my curse was no more.

To borrow one final cliché, “The better man one, probably.”

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12 Responses to The World Cup – A Settler’s Perspective

  1. Co-author says:

    Bloody football.

  2. Silke says:

    another sun struck author?
    lots of typos?
    but what a great piece!
    never thought Israelis were so polite as to nod off and make no effort whatsoever to keep up their own idea of fun against all those vuvuela-ers.
    is that a sign of the Israel’s society’s weakening in the assertiveness field?

  3. Lambert Dickmeis says:

    Hi Judah,

    Apparently your success at and interest in soccer closely mirrors mine. Settle on, by all means.🙂

    Your hun kindred spirit

    Lambert

  4. Silke says:

    come on what’s going on here?

    Huns are supposed to be the evil ones …

    and it is not soccer it is football – for cryin out loud – that American imperialism on the sly has got to stop here and now

    except for the fact that I find Günther Netzer sexy when he does the expert thingy I don’t get any of it, I’m bad at competing and there are way too few close-ups of legs. Now if they’d wear tight fitting tiny shorts I might be tempted to change my mind and consider buying a TV

    though come to think of it Tablet had a photo of a guy whose face was a revelation to a true female’s heart, nothing Brad Pitty or Tom Cruisy about it but pure Cary Grant re-incarnated.

  5. Lambert Dickmeis says:

    Silke,

    As you know, they are either at your throat or at your feet.🙂 However, I find it hard to reconcile your feelings regarding (A) Günther Netzer and (B) Cary Grant. That’s like Chuck Norris vs. Paul Newman. Harumph! But then again I’m male, we have women’s beach volley ball, so what do I care?

    Signed

  6. Lambert Dickmeis says:

    (another TV-less foosball foe)

  7. Silke says:

    Lambert
    just a hint
    Netzer expertising about Fußball has “it” between the ears
    – Cary Grant besides his face in his legs when he tries to fit himself into something as an American Bride and last but not least this guy is a swoon inducer via his voice besides making it all clear in a more scientific context

    as to the adorable Paul except for the one scene bycicling to raindrops he just doesn’t have “it” for me, maybe he’s just not mediterranean enough (you know huns are said to have an unquenchable longing for the south and to prove it they sent armies again and again.)

  8. Lambert Dickmeis says:

    Netzer … has “it” between the ears

    I forgot, he’s indeed famous for his hair (in a campy way, of course).

    huns are said to have an unquenchable longing for the south

    Ahem, the technical term is Italiensehnsucht, I believe …

    Best

  9. Silke says:

    Ahhh I see you try to draw the veil of Bildungsbürger-ism’s gloss over it
    but we were at it long long long before Goethe (the most impressive thing about Goethe’s Italian book is for me the detailed instructions he gives to Frau vom Stein on how to “type” up his stuff – the guy sure knew how to put females in their place.)

    I see Wikipedia claims Justinian was the great villain causing its fall but that is in my book vile papist propaganda – Justinian never wished Rome anything but the best while the Pope flirted shamelessly with the Northerners at the latest from Charlemagne on and sent the Franks to Byzantium to loot and rape with never before experienced thoroughness. Had the papists and their buddies stood by Belisarius instead of preferring their tribalisms they might have been saved from all kinds of things.

    as to Netzer I think he was the first to show Germans that Ferraris could be driven on normal streets and his hair these days is a rather sorry affair – old age isn’t nice to some of our features

  10. Lambert Dickmeis says:

    Silke,

    I say one last word: uncle!

  11. Nick K says:

    Yesterday I watched my four-year-old playing football in the park with the big boys.
    It was his ball so they had to let him play.

    They made him run up and down the sidelines to ensure he was as much out of the way as possible. He carried out his instructions with vigor and enthusiasm, barely got a touch of the ball, yet would dance with joy from his remote location, each time his team scored.

    I thought that some fatherly intervention to right this wrong might be in order. Then I remembered that Judah’s early foot-balling efforts were not too dissimilar. No one intervened then on his behalf and Judah turned into a sprucely upstanding man.

    I decided to let my son get on with the game and I await for fate to take its course.

  12. Silke says:

    wonderful that your son is allowed to find his way in the real world on his own

    I read this today and froze with pity at the kids who are cheated by it
    what I’m referring to begins at crtl-F kindergartner http://www.spectator.co.uk/rodliddle/6207308/lunacy-plain-and-simple.thtml

    (when I was a kid it was benevolent relatives who cheated on us that way but that led into a whole lot of complexities the blessed(?) kids of today are spared? for their own good? for their own bad?)

    I vote for bad – allowing them to get a grip on the real while being protected from harm is what good adults do to children.

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