FIFA World Cup 2010: A Reflection

¡Viva La Furia Roja!

It’s been about four days, and my body clock is still out of whack. I can still almost hear those blasted horns.

Those who have been keeping tabs on the World Cup, or at least caught sight of news headlines would know the context of the previous sentence. This year, Spain claimed the title of World Cup Champions, a historical first. It was a night of emotional outpouring and a day of lethargy, especially for the football fans who had to adjust their sleeping schedules due to the match taking place during an ungodly hour. Although the winner has been decided, the afterglow of the victory — or loss, depending on the side — still gave out a healthy gleam long after the blare of the very last vuvuzela.

How I Chose Which Teams to Support

My previous post outlined my support for a Netherlands-Germany showdown come the Final. It didn’t happen, so I focused on a different set of jersey colours. Let me reiterate that I supported that combination due to a historical and political reason, not so much as the individual teams. After all, the previous teams that I supported earlier on in the tournament have been eliminated, and I started to consider aligning my support on a match-to-match basis.

For me, it was not a question of trying to back the winning team from the beginning. It wasn’t a guessing game; I felt no more validated supporting England (who lost in the round of sixteens) than I did Spain in the Final. I made my selections based on discussions with friends who were also watching the tournament, what I remembered from previous World Cup tournaments, the purported reputations of each teams, team line-ups, and putting previous performances of each teams in context. I supported popular and unpopular teams, popular and unpopular players, watched teams I supported win and lose, and listened to people who agreed and disagreed with me. I immersed myself in football politics. What made the learning process easier is that I enjoyed myself.

My support for Spain developed shortly after Brazil was defeated by the Netherlands, and was affirmed after Spain continued their streak and beat Germany in the Semi-Final. I had watched the Brazil-Netherlands match with at least twenty other people, and the mechanics behind the result brought on a very interesting debate. The Brazilian team, culturally known as a passion-driven nation, as it is with many Latin countries, juxtaposed the almost zen-like performance of the Dutch team. The debate was whether playing with the directive of emotions (heart) or playing with methodical calculation (head) makes for a better team ethos.

In any good game, there should always be an appropriate balance of both the head and heart. Emotions without the structure of mechanism precision can only spell chaos, and nothing is more futile than rigid execution without the boost of morale. Regardless of preconceived notions, both the Spanish and Dutch teams were emotional during the Final. Even though it triggered the onset of player-kicking than maneuvering the ball, the presence of the emotions are justified. Aside from the factors that triggered their emotions — such as the referee or even that octopus, Paul — I guess it’s safe to assume that both teams knew precisely what is at stake.

With that said, I wasn’t fond of the debate, seeing it as did nothing more than make swift generalisations of what is realistically supposed to be a balance of both. But upon deciding between Spain and the Netherlands — heart or the head — in a rare moment of romanticism, I sided with the heart.

World Cup Social Media Outreach

My outlet of choice when reacting to the World Cup matches was Twitter. During the World Cup month alone, the amount of tweets I composed inflated exponentially — which means a lot if, as a regular user of that website, one’s tweets have not reached the thousandth tweet mark in more than two years of use. In the World Cup month alone, I managed to compensate for about half of the tweets I have done for the entire time I’ve signed up for my account. If that’s not talkative, I don’t know what is.

Twitter has taken over the semi-archaic concept of “live blogging”, and even though I never did any live blogging during my years as a website design and personal website enthusiast, I took to the whole idea of tweeting during matches. Based on the timing of when Twitter became widely known, it was the first time the World Cup has been broadcast that way. The exchanges have been lively, and those who have resorted to fraternising in same online social outlets are also painfully aware of the frequent appearances of Twitter’s Fail Whale that month. I can guarantee that it affects the World Cup fans who likely caused the server overload as much as those who did not bat an eyelash in the general direction of the tournament.

Post-World Cup Facebook Reactions

Having been born, raised, and currently living in a place with a very strong support for the Netherlands — all the more considering there is Indonesian blood pulsating in the team — really put me out of place, a red amidst a swarm of orange. When Spain won, I opened Facebook, only to see red-hot fury (Ha!) coming from the Dutch supporters. I don’t blame them, however. Had the situation been reversed, I would have expressed my outrage too — though less ironically.

As a whole, I thought the emotional output from these people was both great and engaging. Even the anger, assuming no one brought up clenched fists or let the conversation lose focus from the controversies of the World Cup. I’ve been taught to see anger as a passion that can become a positive force when channeled constructively. I don’t want to imagine the deterioration of my state of mind if I were shamed for every instance of anger I experienced. It would take a couple days before the first utterances of conciliatory words would be heard. After all, we are all human.

In Defense of Paul

Aside from the tournament-appointed tiger mascot, the 2010 World Cup had an additional mascot that brought even more life to the entire month. In fact, the following in which this unwitting creature has gained has probably reached those of the non-football persuasion. Even those who were not fond of Paul’s mere existence followed him.

With forks and knives.

Paul, a two-year-old octopus living in an aquarium in Germany, has allegedly correctly predicted all the World Cup matches involving the German squad. An animal oracle, smack dab in the middle of Europe. Paul’s apparent method of prediction would be through the selection of one of two boxes, each containing food. Each box would have the flag of whichever two teams were to play against each other. Whichever box Paul picks first is said to be the predicted winner. Strangely enough, he’s been right, and his record accuracy has captured the attention of various media outlets worldwide.

Sadly, even in the animal kingdom, fame — or infamy — has a hefty price. The welfare of Paul became an issue of concern towards the Final, when he predicted the defeat of Germany, and then later the defeat of Netherlands at the hands of the Spanish team. Both had come to pass. Instantly, Paul had effectively become elevated above his animal status. With the magnitude of the collective spirit behind the tournament, people became emotionally invested in this creature. Those who did not agree or were not happy with Paul’s predictions threatened to take him one a one-way trip to paradise through the kitchen. There were even those who depended on Paul to be correct, because they paid more than just emotional investments. Investments that involved, let’s say, money.

Team biases aside, does this creature deserve that much abuse? Personally, I didn’t buy the whole octopus phenomenon. Any references I made to Paul were purely satirical, and those who know me well know that I enjoy a healthy dose of humour. Perhaps it’s because it will take more than just ten consecutive box selections to convince me of the connection between the outcomes of the matches and the instinctual actions of a tentacled creature. I don’t mean to channel Chris Crocker for this instance, but leave this multiple-legged beauty queen alone. It was just hungry.

However, I did spend some time contemplating the post-World Cup dramatic increase in orders for octopus in sushi places and various seafood restaurants, particularly in the Oranje-strong areas.

What About You?

Is the influence of the World Cup prevalent in your culture? If you are a football fan and caught this year’s World Cup, how do you feel about Spain’s victory?

6 Comments

  1. Chris

    You’ve read my posts on the World Cup so I think you know my take on it. This is the boringest in memory. Well, my memory, at least. Blame on the “too perfect” ball, them vile vuvuzelas, or even that Teutonic cephalopod, but you can’t deny the insipidity of this edition.

    The last game was shambolic. It evinced everything bad about the entire campaign. Honestly, without the individual brilliance of some of the Spaniards, it would have been a rugby game. Only that rugby games are actually well-mannered. This was a pugilistic, odious, regretful game. Did Spain deserve to win? Yes and no. Yes because they managed to overcome the brutes of Orange and no because they were not clinical or convincing toward their victory.

    Can’t wait for the next, though. For now, bring on the EPL. :)

  2. Maria Celina

    @Nikz: Nikz, unfortunately, I could not agree less with the idea that football has been less social this year. There is so much evidence of the opposite. Malls install open-air screens in their courtyards. Traffic jams are completely unreal. People in the offices still go out of the way to add a football tidbit or twenty around the watercooler. Pubs or other public places here made more money during the World Cup month than other times of the year, so I am sure people went out and maintained their sociability. Based on the deep-rooted culture of football in football-loving nations, the social implications of the sport are too deeply ingrained for a BlackBerry or an iPhone to cause any significant silence. Perhaps I speak from what I observe on my side of the world.

    I think things like Twitter and Facebook has widened the social possibilities in which people can let their views be known, especially when celebrating football with loved ones who are far away. We spend more time online, so what better way than to get our attentions about social events through that same vein? Facebook events, tweet-ups, and other social gatherings arranged with these tools make events more feasible, because of the general upgrade in the tools in which we use. Of course, we can add the disclaimer about how the digital age is dehumanising us, and a tidbit about the morality behind it all, but I believe such an injection would be vetoed completely in this instance. I feel the morality watch should be focused on the hooliganism that football can sometimes instigate. That definitely still exists, social media or not.

    @jannie: Jannie, I think the quantitative social aspects of football are generally unaffected by the onset of the digital age. Qualitative, however, may be different. Perhaps the people who use things like Facebook and Twitter post their reactions and thoughts can now get relatively quick reactions from, say, family and friends who are not with them during the football celebration. In fact, my reply to Nikz’ has my view on that.

    I remember when the mall near my place was completely jam-packed during the Germany-Argentina match. Tables from various eateries were brought beyond their assigned perimetres so that people can get view of the outdoor screen in which the match was projected. People brought whole families — including grandparents — and some other groups were probably reunions of other purpose. Goals and near-goals would cause reverberations on the mall flooring from the cheers. The spirit was definitely infectious. Of course, that’s just one match; who knows what the others were like. Again, as I mentioned to Nikz, I make my point based on what I observed around me. Maybe it’s different in places that are less affected by football.

    @Krysten: I definitely agree that discussing football is part of the fun, Krysten. In fact, I know some people who are still making their opinions known about what happened, about the winning team, and about which team should have won. Of course, I do not discount myself from the equation.

    @Charles Ravndal: Oh my, Charles. How did Odd react to the Spanish win?

  3. Charles Ravndal

    I wasn’t really paying attention with the World Cup fever though Odd did bet during the finals. I told him to bet on Spain since I had this gut feeling that they’ll win but he chose Netherlands instead.

  4. Krysten

    I am not a big soccer (football) fan but my husband watched as many games as he possibly could. He wasn’t rooting for Spain but I think he was just so happy to be watching the games that in the end it wasn’t that big of a deal. Definitely fun to listen to people discuss it though!

  5. jannie

    wow. congratulations to spain’s victory at the world cup. i haven’t been following the world cup though. it would’ve been nice to have watched it, but i honestly wouldn’t know what’s going on in football to begin with. hehehe… i was thinking in my head, “may the best team win.” :D

    i kinda had a feeling netherlands would win based on their big following with all these people rooting for them. i saw stuff like, “go, netherlands!” all over my facebook home too. hahaha…

    being nosy and reading nikki’s comment above, that would’ve been nice to take the world cup beyond facebook and watched it together with friends in person. that would’ve been loads of fun. :)

    i can’t believe the world cup is over. time flies. hehe…

  6. Nikz

    For some reason, I like football for the social connections it brings. However, it felt a bit less social this year, as most people have resorted to posting their reactions on Facebook. I miss the good ol’ days where people would just agree to meet up at X location (bar, open-air screen) and watch together, with a drink or two.

    I really didn’t care who won the cup … I just wanted to see if Paul’s prediction came true! Hahaha. But just for fun :) Too bad the single match I watched in full was one of the crappiest T_T

    I like your comparison between using the head and using the heart :) I agree that a balance of both would be healthy. Sometimes the heart is a very misleading thing, but then again sometimes, without the heart’s passion, the head wouldn’t be motivated, either. If that made sense XD Nyahaha!

    I still crave some takoyaki, though … ^^

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