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June 06, 2006

28 years of World Cup finals

I got some great news over the weekend, that my parents are coming to stay over here in July. It means that my dad and I will be able to watch the World Cup final together, keeping up an unbroken tradition that goes back 28 years. A number of years which probably horrifies us both in equal measure.

I say unbroken....

I remember watching the 1978 final. We got a colour TV just in time for the start of the World Cup, which meant unlike most of the Tartan Army I wasn't confused about who was doing what when Scotland played Peru and Iran.

In fact I have a very clear memory that on the way home from school I had picked up a TV aerial lead that was lying on the floor in the street, and when my dad saw it by the side of the TV he was concerned that the TV was broken and I had just stuffed the leads into the back in order to watch the football.

Hmm, actually, thinking about the time differences involved, the TV lead incident must have actually happened during the 1980 European Championships in Italy, but nevertheless, I do remember the awesome ticker-tape entrance Argentina got in the 1978 final, and as a kid thinking it was amazing.

Naranjito I also remember 1982 very well - the first time England had been in a World Cup since I was born, and then they only went and scored within 40 seconds of their first match starting. I faithfully collected the Panini stickers, including the foil Naranjito mascot, and expected England to win. Don't we always.

I got a lot of stick at school the next week after Italy had won the 1982 final. Nearly everybody in my class had been supporting Italy because obviously you can't support the Germans after WWII and 1966 etc etc. I had stuck to my principles that the Italians had conveniently reprieved players accused of match-fixing in time for them to play in the finals and that was morally wrong. Well, that is what I like to think now, but probably at that age I supported Germany because they were wearing white like England did or something.

The 1986 World Cup for me was memorable because the time difference meant all the matches were on really late in the UK, and I was of an age when my parents would go to bed and I would be allowed to stay up late and watch the matches, and make my own cups of coffee and cheese-on-toast and everything. It was like being a real grown-up. In fact, I think I even watched some of England's group games on my own because they were too late for my dad to stay up. That final we were most certainly supporting the Germans after the "Hand of God" quarter-final. Say no more.

The 1990 World Cup is remembered in England for Gazza and his tears and the penalties and all that - but I actually missed a lot of England's part in it. It was the year I was doing my 'A' Levels, and I was much more interested in the band I was in and my job at a local record store than I was in school or football. Well, not that much more interested - I negotiated early leaving hours from work in order to watch the group stages. I also have somewhere in storage a tape with a demo version of a song called "Said It Yrself", where I break off from the vocals and instead just record the commentary as Costa Rica score against Scotland.

I watched England's quarter-final with Cameroon on a black-and-white TV balanced on the end of my keyboard as I did some programming during a studio session with the band, and missed the England - Germany semi-final because I was at Wembley Stadium watching the Rolling Stones. I also remember that I finally got off with someone I'd fancied for ages at school after watching the incredibly dull Italy - Argentina semi-final round their house. Never had I more wanted a match to finish so I could try my inept teenage romantic moves. And never in my life has a game been so dull and drawn out as that one. On reflection, my teenage romantic moves were probably not so hot either.

I was just leaving uni when the 1994 World Cup started, without England. My dad hired a van to pick me and all my gear up from Leeds, and then about ten minutes from home we ran out of petrol and were stuck at the side of the M11. I was furious - mostly because we were missing some inconsequential match featuring Belgium during the group stages or something. The final between Brazil and Italy managed to be even worse than 1990's West Germany - Argentina effort. In fact, apart from the penalty shoot-out, the only thing of note about it was that one of my friends declared the World Cup trophy to be rubbish because you couldn't even drink from it like a proper cup, the most entertaining thing you could do with it would be run around pretending it was your willy.

Up to that point I had watched all the World Cup finals with my dad. In 2002 I watched the final in the Rose and Crown in Walthamstow with my dad as well, plus my brother-in-law and Claire. But I cannot for the life of me remember where I watched the 1998 final, or with whom. So I say 28 years unbroken, but I can't actually be sure. Perhaps someone who was actually with me can leave a comment and confirm what I was doing?

Of course, there is additionally the likely possibility that my dad and I also watched the World Cup final together in 1974 as well (which would make it 32 years unbroken) - but unlike my early memories of watching Doctor Who as a three or four year old, I don't remember that.

I do know, though, that I will always be able to tease my nephew with the fact that we watched the Euro2004 final together, but that I also had to watch him have his nappy changed halfway through the second-half ;-)

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Oh man, you have so many memories similar to mine. Thank you for sharing.

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