Football, Sport

The Heavy Sleeper’s 2014 World Cup Diary: Complete and Unabridged

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One year ago today, the Shoot Farken website was launched. To celebrate the occasion we are proud to republish The Heavy Sleeper’s 2014 World Cup Diary.
During the course of the 2014 World Cup Shoot Farken published a diary by The Heavy Sleeper. Unlike most World Cup diaries, this was not written by a someone experiencing the event in the host country. No, this was a diary by someone who, like many other Australians, watched the month long festival of football bleary eyed, through the wee small hours of the morning. A strange nocturnal twilight zone, a football fan’s limbo land. Sustained by a steady supply of snack food, The Heavy Sleeper aka academic Paul Mavroudis, tried to make sense of  it all with his stream of (semi) consciousness match reports. The result was, in our humble opinion, the finest chronicle of the 2014 World Cup published in Australia.
Friday, June 13, 6.00am
Brazil 3 Croatia 1

Unusually toss and turn all night instead of sleeping like a brick, waking up in time to miss most of the anthems, which is a good thing, because most anthems suck anyway, as do opening ceremonies. This Olić bloke is sweating like he’s just destroyed the entire Viet Cong army singlehandedly, and it’s only ten minutes into the game. Still, the Cros go one up thanks to an own goal and maybe they’ll make a game of this, but instead a long range toe poke which slowpokes its way off the post and into the corner of the net gets Brazil level, and I can’t help but think the Cros are going to be stuffed after that, as well as such crazy notions as maybe the keeper could have done better, but also maybe Croatia would have been better off falling behind instead of scoring first. That penalty is dodgy as, but the keeper gets a hand on it, but it goes in anyway, so now that Brazil are ahead it’s a case of how many they’ll win by, but simultaneously Croatia realise that some points is better than no points and push forward, managing to score, but the unnecessarily protected species that is the soccer goalkeeper gets unnecessarily protected and the goal gets ruled out. Then a foul against the Cros in midfield is missed and Brazil score another long range toe poke which the keeper may or may not have done better at trying to save. The end of the game brings up the conundrum of whether to enjoy the Croatian misery on my Twitter feed or acknowledging the quite obvious manner in which ‘they waz robbed’. SBS’s Sydney Croatia legal firm panel of Zdrillic, Kalac and Zelic aside, my innate sense of morality tells me to go with the latter. I’m not quite up to Aristotle’s notion of the Virtuous Character, but I’m trying.

Saturday, June 14, 5.00am
Spain 1  Netherlands 5

One goes to sleep after another crazy night of staying in, listening to the NPL broadcast of Pascoe Vale vs Green Gully while having the TV on mute and flicking between the footy on Seven and the rugby league on Gem – the last of which by the way is a completely pointless exercise because a) I don’t actually care about rugby league and b) @amul82 wasn’t tweeting #sackeverything or even #sackanything, so #sackamul82 for not being there to tweet about I assume some Burgess brothers’ Union Jack underpants. It’s quite a hectic lifestyle that I lead. Wake up at 4:20, so oh my insert relevant deity there’s still another forty minutes of pointless chatter and Mark Schwarzer trying to convince me to bet. Didn’t you make enough from your ridiculously long career, Mark, so you wouldn’t have to sell your arse to these people who have managed to take the last bit of the game’s innocence that FIFA has yet to sully? The worst thing is that these forty odd minutes are spent still half asleep, so maybe I can even argue that I’m now being indoctrinated subliminally, but maybe that has its own upside, because once again, outside of snatches of Champions League football I have no idea who most of these guys are, which allows me at best to bullshit my way through conversations in the same way that the constant barrage of AFL reporting in this state allows the majority of people who don’t actually care about footy to make meaningful interspecies contact with the minority that actually do, before being able to squirm out of said conversations leaving the footyhead none the wiser. Spain look OK, doing their tic-tac football thing and scoring off what afterwards looks like a bit of a dodgy penalty, but at that moment, you know that moment where the referee has to make a call then and there looked reasonably fair dinkum. Then the Dutch start moving about, and they start scoring some freaky goals, like they’re the footballing version of the Harlem Globetrotters, the Haarlem Globetrotters if you like. Robin Van Persie’s headed goal was freaky, and I always think that Arjen Robben looks about ten years older than he actually is, and even if he is a ball hog, man that speed and skill is just phwoar! The Spanish defence at times played like they were Australian (see below), but nevertheless Holland looked great playing fast, direct and effective football. If only there was a way to watch players like that every week.

June 14, Saturday 8.00am
Chile 3 Australia 1

Unlike some other extant South Melbourne fans – a very small minority I assure you – I have no regrets about continuing to support the Socceroos despite the events of the last ten years, even if I have no idea who the hell most of them are any more. As mentioned in a recent post on my personal blog, most of them exist on pay television – if they exist even there – and I do not have pay television, and buggered if I’d watch them on that anyway even if I did have it. Still, I know who the coach is, even if he looks stupid without his 1990s Greek-Australian nightclub beard with goatee and without a typically unflattering 1990s Australian soccer tracksuit. Frank Arok didn’t care about looking stupid in a tracksuit, or even growing a crazy looking beard when the time came for it. Speaking of pride, if said national coach happened to have played in a national championship winning side with the father of one of the current players, wouldn’t you try and at least mention this once for the sake of creating a narrative pointing to the richness of our soccer history? Anyway, like most Australians, I was soon forced into making a Sophie’s Choice of either turning on the mute button or gritting my teeth and dealing with the unique comedy stylings of Basheer and Foster. I choose the latter, partly because there are other people watching this game with me as well, and at least Basheer is on his best behaviour today. But Foster is soon running amok, being unable to choose between being a  commentator, a coach or a fan. This reaches its absolute lowest point, not when he tries to perform either of those three roles either separately or simultaneously, but when he whistles – not once, but twice. At first I think someone in the room with me has done it, but two of the people in the room don’t even care about the game, my dad points out he has false teeth making whistling impossible, and I know I haven’t done it, so it must be Foster. All this on top of the nightmarish result of the first 15 minutes, in which I can excuse the first goal somewhat, but the second was quite obviously straight out of an under 9s or Skillaroos or Optus small sided football, or whatever newfangled unstructured yet still structured result of Dutch mango sucking the little ones are doing these days. Like you, I think we’re doomed to cop an absolute pasting from here on in, though I’m managing to keep it under Paul Wade levels of hysteria. But then the most predictable thing of all happens, and Tim Cahill scores a header. From there on we, within the bounds of reason and our obvious limitations, are quite superb. Aside from Cahill, Leckie looks unbelievable, Davidson gets over his initial stage fright and plays with the heart and dash of, dare we say it, his old man, every player in gold shirts and inexplicably gold shorts has grown a foot, and only Tommy Oar looks all at sea, which I would never have picked. We get close on a number of occasions, we have them on the ropes, and though we don’t get the win or a draw, at least we’ve re-found that quintessential Australian sporting necessity – having a red hot go no matter the circumstances, regardless of the opponent – which Verbeek and Osieck tried their best to destroy over the past few years due to their own unnerving and infectious fear of failure. It’s not much to go on – and we may still very well get pantsed by Spain and the Netherlands – but it’s a start.

Sunday, June 15, 5.00am
Uruguay 1 Costa Rica 3

I arrive on the couch just after half-time, with the old man reluctantly telling me that Greece had been beaten 3-0 by Colombia, playing shithouse football, and with Costa Rica down 1-0 it seemed that everything was situation normal. But then Costa Rica find some sort of resolve and score, and score again, and then score once more for good measure. Uruguay in its own mythology and depending on the situation and the opponent, is a giant minnow or a small giant, with an infamous self-perception that they have the God-given right to be more than a nuisance to big teams while also being the destroyer of lesser teams. But sometimes when everything goes wrong, everything truly goes wrong, and when you need just one thing to go right – and in soccer, even when everything goes wrong, sometimes you need only that one good moment to change the match – nothing goes right, not one thing, so Maxi Pereira decides he wants to get sent off and achieves that goal. Costa Rica may not win the World Cup, they may not even get out of the group, but in forty-five minutes they justified the notion of this tournament being more than Europe and South America and Mexico, as well as their own football being more than just Paulo Wanchope.

June 15, Sunday 8.00am
Côte d’Ivoire 2 Japan 1

Gary Bloom is commentating this match, and all I can think of is how much this feels like 1994, back when Bloom was the voice of the Serie A show that SBS used to play from 10:30 to 11:30, before On The Ball and then off to Middle Park or Olympic Village, and then home for the replay of whatever game was the NSL match of the day. It was, truly, a golden age. But this is no longer 1994, it is 2014, and the NSL is gone, most free to air soccer is gone, and SBS has buried its flagship soccer talking heads show behind five-year-old quote cult unquote US pay TV shows – and just in case you were in any doubt about which year it is, Ivory Coast and Japan are in the World Cup finals as now regular participants, although Gary Bloom makes sure to point out that he is under a FIFA directive to call Ivory Coast, Côte d’Ivoire, though he manages to sneak in the Anglicised name from time to time. There are people out there who think Asian teams can’t finish, and that’s at least partly why Australia has been able to qualify for recent World Cups, but Honda goes a little way to putting that theory to bed with a cracking strike early on. Having made that emphatic statement though, Japan proceed to withdraw from centre stage, making do with letting Les Éléphants gradually work their way to a dominant position. The Africans’ begin to botch chance after chance – and why are they referred to as ‘the Africans’, and the South American teams as the ‘South Americans’, but you never hear a European team referred to as ‘the Europeans’? And will we ever hear Australia referred to as ‘the Asians’, which would make Paul Keating smile and make Pauline Hanson cry into her corn flakes? Two headed goals in two minutes – Bony’s a beautiful glancing header, Gervinho’s through the diving Japanese keeper’s hands who had otherwise done well during the rest of the game settles this, and even if he is not at the centre of any of these events, Didier Drogba, on as a substitute, walks across the grass like he owns this stadium, and the crowd duly acknowledges his majesty. All this is done to an insistent and unusually syncopated beat from the crowd, some sort of Afro-Asiatic industrial pulse, like one of Xinlisupreme’s quieter tracks, just without the complete and unending sense of dread and deliberately terrible production values.

Sunday, June 15, 11.00am
England 1 Italy 2

For once England arrive at a major tournament where their fans and their media are apparently on the same page as with the rest of the world – that the English national team is at best a minor power. The 1966 World Cup was 48 years ago; Euro ’96 now 18 years ago. So maybe this young group of players with the odd older head can be allowed to do their best, without unreasonable expectation, and in this game they’re at least playing without fear. Italy’s defence looks a little wonky, but England can’t get inside, its mostly long range shots which mostly aren’t even on target even if they’re close. Italy are patient, Pirlo is directing traffic in his usual manner, but the crosses from the right to Balotelli are poor. Martin Tyler, a great commentator whose only failing is over-exuberance during England games – he’s only human after all – is keeping himself in check here, and proffers the obvious but nevertheless profound yin and yang statement that Italy are trying to pass their way to a goal, while England are trying to sprint their way to a goal. If you have the competence to pull your desired approach off, neither approach should be out of bounds – and isn’t this what the World Cup is about, seeing many styles up against each other? Italy open the scoring with a long range shot – there’s no sprinting, no intricate passing, just a Zen-like (as noted by someone on Twitter) non-intervention by Pirlo who dummies and leaves the ball for Marchisio’s shot – perhaps the best getting out of the way since Milan Baroš got out of the way of Vladimir Šmicer’s shot in the 2005 Champions League final. But England find a way back straight away, Rooney doing his one good thing for the game after receiving a killer pass from Sterling, and then crossing to Sturridge for the equaliser. 1-1 at half-time, and all I can think of apart from how great this game and this tournament have been so far, is what is Chiellini doing wearing different coloured boots on each foot? It’s the logical conclusion of allowing anyone to wear coloured boots in the first place. Now to be fair, Super Mario is doing it, too, but he’s Super Mario and everyone else – you, me, global superstars and park footballers and perhaps especially Chiellini – are not, and that’s why he can get away with that and his audacious chip which I was so willing to go in, but alas was cleared off the line. There was a saying on the old World Game Forum, ‘Idalee always getta da goal’, and so it comes to be, with a minor variation on the cross-it-to-Super-Mario motif providing a major variation in outcome. Italy then proceed to suck the life out of the game as only Italy can, slowly and surely, and it occurs to me that Italy are like Miles Davis, the epitome of soccer cool, completely unselfconscious and effortless, when every other major footballing nation tries to find ways to flagellate itself not only for results but for style, whereas the Italians found their groove so many years ago and have seldom if ever wavered, not caring a jot what the rest of the world thinks. They’re as predictable as SBS crossing to Leichhardt or Lygon Street for footage of all the Italian bandwagoners coming out of hibernation. But back to the essence of cool, namely Pirlo, who has not broken a sweat all game, who hits a free kick of such mesmerising grace that Joe Hart goes one way as the ball goes the other, only for it to hit the crossbar and go out. It’s in this moment that I realise that no one has complained about the official World Cup ball, not even once, and this tournament just went up another notch because of it.

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