World Cup is Here

Here we go again! I can’t believe four years have gone by. The 20 year old me would probably be counting down the hours, while anxiously clutching on her phone that’s permanently on Tumblr. A lot of GIFs to be reblogged. The current me is trying to figure out how to fit the World Cup schedule into my life as the matches that I care about are way past midnight. But I will prevail. My 20 year old self would never forgive me if I didn’t try.

If anybody asked me when I started falling in love with football, I’d say 2002. A good 12 years would convince them of my obsession. But really, I was 12 and I was like any other football bandwagoner: I watched the semi-final and final matches during the Korea-Japan tournament and decided to root for Germany. I particularly remembered Michael Ballack. He’s a handsome man and talented to boot.

But to be honest, it was the 2010 tournament that really turned me into a football fan. If you asked me in 2009 if I would ever fall head to toe in love with football in the next year, I’d say you’re mad. In 2010, I was mad; really, I can’t even illustrate it for you, you just had to believe me. I was a complete novice, I didn’t understand a lot of how the game works. I still remember it: it was a total fluke, me watching Germany v Australia at 3 am. Like all university and college kids, my sleeping biological clock was already screwed up so I normally sleep at 4 am anyway. I suddenly thought, hey, what’s Michael Ballack doing? Injured as it turns out. But boy oh boy, did the German team thrashed Australia 4-0. Good God, it was fantastic! I was reeling from the feeling of euphoria that I had never experienced. The vuvuzelas were singing to the heavens and Jogi Löw whooped and cheered in his uber fashionable blue sweater.

It was set in stone.

Die Mannschaft 2010.

I missed the Serbia and Ghana matches, no thanks to final exams, but who can forget the butthurt we caused slaying England and Argentina? The disallowed goal by Lampard; a lot of my England fan friends were absolutely livid on my Facebook wall. I did nothing to quell it though, I was confident we were going to win the whole thing. Then, Maradona’s devastated facial expression graced our TV when our boys scored goal after goal. Messi’s anguished tears when the final whistle rang out. I actually watched the Argentina match at a friend’s house and basically egged on my Argentina fan friend until he had to sit at a corner to calm himself down. Four goals each, my friend. That is an amazing feat. I was on a high for weeks. My life soundtrack at that moment was basically K’nan’s “Waving Flag”, “Gimme Hope Joachim” and Shakira’s “Waka Waka”. I didn’t even have to Google to spell the names of Schweinsteiger, Podolski or Mertesacker.

But unfortunately, the fairy tale ended, not with a bang but a whimper.

I didn’t know it at that time but the Spanish team has been Germany’s kryptonite for a good few years now, ever since Germany lost in the finals of EURO 2008. Despite raining goals in the England and Argentina games, facing Spain turned their knees into jelly. Suddenly, they couldn’t find each other to pass the ball, shots went off target. It didn’t help that Spain was playing tiki-taka all over the field, Barcelona raging forth in South Africa. One measly goal from Spain and Germany relegated to a match for the third place. Devastated couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt. But that’s the strange thing about football: the more painful the defeat, the more fiercely you decide to support your team. You can’t just let your players go after a defeat. What are you, a gloryhunter? Heck no! I watched as Germany’s benchwarmers take on Uruguay as most of the starters suddenly had fallen sick.

That’s when Bastian Schweinsteiger really shined, as a captain and a midfielder. A mistake by him cost Germany a goal and he was upset for a split second but he was determined to bring home a medal. They didn’t call him the Fussballgott for nothing. Even until now, whenever I think of buying a jersey, it’s always Schweinsteiger’s name that I want on my back. Despite Suarez’s charisma, it was Germany’s night. Sure, they lost the tournament but seeing the boys cheered as they received their medals made me realise how much I wanted them to win gold.

I was at a crossroad after the World Cup: should I simply wait another four years for the next World Cup or delve into the unknown world of Bundesliga where my favourite players continue to flourish?

I decided to watch one Bayern Munich match since most of my favourite players – Schweinsteiger, Neuer, Klose and Müller – were in that club. It was against Kaiserslautern. Like a typical first match after an international tournament, the match ended nil nil. And yet, I fell in love with the club anyway! Before I knew it, I was watching every match diligently on dodgy stream sites. My Tumblr went nuts. I went into intensive education mode. I learned the rules of football, the lingo, the league, the clubs involved and even football strategies. Since Bundesliga is utterly German-concentrated, I even picked up a few words in German! I tried to learn the language entirely but the gender grammar rules lost me. My friends watched me spiral into a crazed Germanophile but I was making new football friends online.

And Bayern Munich in 2010 is not the Bayern Munich today. The manic Van Gaal days where Bayern was slowly deteriorating, Klose was nowhere the top goal scorer that he had been and BVB basically smushed our heads into the turf with every match. Then, the Jonker days, basically putting the team on rehab and climbing from the Dutch funk. And of course, Heynckes, the man who led us into our worst defeat and then gave us the best year a football fan could ever want. Winning the treble: the league, DFB Pokal and the Champions League.

I will be honest and say that after four years, I love Bayern more than Die Mannschaft.

But here we are. Another World Cup and a controversial one at that. Four years had made me wiser about the game but also less optimistic. We lost at the semifinals back in EURO 2012 and getting kicked out in the semis starting to look like a bad habit now. It doesn’t help that Die Mannschaft’s manager has been making questionable choices. His favouritism towards certain players is one thing but he also bows down to pressure too many times. Germany has the most talented players at his disposal right now. But will we able to win everything with his lead? Only time will tell.

I just hope I will be able to watch it when it happens!

 

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