Column: Forging World Cup memories
On the eve of a World Cup, wherever football lovers gather, conversation turns to their earliest memories of the tournament.
So many of those bewitched by the beautiful game fell head over heels watching the gathering of the game’s greatest every four years.
For this writer it was the clouds of ticker tape, Archie Gemmill’s dancing feet and the flowing locks of Mario Kempes at Argentina ‘78.
It is likely the childhood recollections of those of the same age are of the same scenes, much as the 30-something replays Gazza’s tears, Pavarotti and the penalty heartache of Italia ’90.
Even those tournaments when the matches failed to catch fire and breath-taking skill was kept at bay have enough moments to define their place in World Cup history.
Baggio’s penalty miss, Jack Charlton’s touchline histrionics and Maradona’s disgrace in USA ’94.
The greatest there ever was finished on the stage where his final, glorious ascent to the pantheon of champions was crowned eight years earlier.
And now the next generation waits for hearts to be captured by images and moments:
Small boys and girls unaware they are about to be whisked off on a journey starting in Russia and lasting a lifetime;
Football matches as yet unplayed to be recreated in playgrounds the whole world over;
Snatches of commentary instantly memorised, echoing around parks and streets from the school bell to sunset;
Kits of all colours; songs, anthems and celebrations; stickers of every hopeful carefully fixed in their album, the names and records diligently committed to memory.
Over the next few weeks a new roll call of heroes and villains will be cast into sporting immortality.
Those awakened by Schumacher’s ‘tackle’ on Patrick Battiston in ’82 still won’t consider forgiveness almost four decades on.
While others beam as Tardelli keeps on running and running, his face the picture of what it means to score the winner in the final itself.
Such goals will write themselves into folklore and controversies born from Kaliningrad to Yekaterinburg will rage on for generations.
This is the beauty even the self-serving suits of FIFA could not destroy once the whistle blows from a billion television sets.
For all of the corporate takeover the glamour and thrill was still there in Brazil ’14 as it had been in Brazil ’50 when Uruguay stole the host’s dreams. Despite their five wins since, that generation has neither forgotten nor forgiven, such is the spellbinding power of the World Cup.
Maybe the children of Brazil ’14 will wince forever at the eventual victors’ seven goal salvo in front of the silent expanses of the mighty Maracanã.
The Olympic Games undoubtedly sears unforgettable scenes into the memory, but they don’t mark out the generations like the World Cup does. Even football’s Euros are rarely defined in the same way.
TV producers know it and so we await this year’s edit of 50 Greatest World Cup Moments and match them to our own.
It matters not a jot that heartache awaits – it always does save for those blessed with the summer of ’66 – the history makers won’t all be captured standing beneath the golden trophy’s glow.