Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I am about to enter my two-yearly football frenzy. I can't be doing with the league business, but I do love international soccer. Every two years, I get thrilled about the European Championships or the World Cup, suddenly remember what the offside rule is, ship in proper quantities of lager beer, and get very shouty at the television. I like the idea of the whole world coming together in one sport. I feel a little sentimental about the smaller countries, and long for them to do well. There was a glorious moment in 1990 when Cameroon suddenly showed everyone what really antic football looked like. There was something very touching about the Croatian team reaching the quarter finals of Euro 96 after the horrors of the Balkan wars. There is also something properly democratic about the whole business. If football went where money and power is, then America and China would win every single tournament; instead, you get Brazil and Spain leading the field.
Good old England goes into the tournament amidst a mumble of doubts. In the past, tournaments started in blind optimism and flag-waving, and degenerated into white-faced disappointment, usually involving a shambolic penalty shoot-out. This year, as if to guard against hubris, the mood is appropriately recessionary. There are tiny green shoots of hope, and a smatter of St George's flags, but the general feeling seems to be a prosaic bracing for disaster. It's England, for heaven's sake; something always goes wrong. The captain is already out after a training injury. Wayne Rooney is bound to lose his temper and get sent off. Brazil is just too good. Gloomy columnists are predicting we won't even get past the group stage.
As for me, I choose to live in hope. I hope the whole tournament will be good for South Africa. I hope the fans behave well. I hope that at least one unconsidered underdog will surprise and delight. I hope England plays well, even if it almost certainly will not win. And I hope that there will be beauty in the beautiful game.
In the meantime, to keep us all going, we have the marvellous Ukulele Club of Dulwich, of all places, with my favourite World Cup song in years:
It's so very British: slightly shambolic, utterly eccentric, and calmly jolly, featuring both tins of beer and very bad teeth. I am particularly taken with the fellow in the hat.
Talking of Britishness, and men in hats, I could not resist this fine photograph from Little London Observationist:
Apparently they were waiting for a bus to take them to see the Trooping of the Colour.
And finally, a little dose of the perspective police. One of the blogs I follow keenly features despatches from Afghanistan. It is very cool and understated, but every day it reminds me of the quiet heroism of the troops out in the dust of Helmand province. Just in case I get too hysterical about the England team in the World Cup, I can remember that football is, after all, only a game, and not a matter of life and death, by looking at photographs like this:
This is a counter IED expert, who appears to be looking for bombs using only a small metal implement. Goals and glory are marvellous things, but that's real courage right there, with no fanfare.