Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Maybe I'm dreaming

Danny Baker, the father of funny football phone-ins, made a salient point in 1999 as opprobrium was being heaped on England coach Glen Hoddle's avowed belief in karma and re-incarnation.

Aren't football fans about the most superstitious creatures around? Just analyse your behaviour on the morning of a Cup Final or a big match involving your country in the
World Cup. You find yourself performing obsessive compulsive tasks you would not normally, in case you upset the gods and tip the balance of nature against your team. Touch that architrave with two fingers, place that moisturiser bottle there, you're almost going mad believing you can affect the outcome far away from your poky bedroom in Staines.

Make no mistake, football's portal to the land of dreams, ecstasy and wonder is a big reason it remains popular, whatever one's age. It has been a while since one of my teams did anything to get me
nervously excited, but yesterday morning I had a fleeting glimpse of spiritual awakening.

As I made my way through the ticket barriers at Waterloo to begin my familiar trek to work I saw Martin Peters, the second-youngest of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team, standing there in front of me, ostensibly waiting for a train like everyone else in a railway station.

Is that? Is it? With no-one else apparently noticing one of England's hallowed team gracing them with his presence, I had to be sure I was not dreaming so I milled around for a minute while I should have been on my way to work, observing his face from a number of angles to be sure I was in the present of a legend. I was.

After a minute or so of awe, I decided the excuse of seeing Mr Peters would not wash at work with my boss so I made for the exit. Feelings and images began to flood my head, of the young Peters wheeling away having rifled home in the World Cup final, and my father celebrating in the stands as he did that day at Wembley. Then England were in white and Steven Gerrard was hoisting the World Cup aloft in a blaze of confetti and camera flashes. Back home the nation went wild, driving around with flags fluttering and horns tooting all night. Oh the thought of being there at that moment, which seems once-in-a-lifetime for Englishmen!

As I skipped down the stairs towards the South Bank,
the wonder began to wear off, but I knew how immense that frisson I felt in Waterloo had been. Football had reminded me what it can do to the emotions and the mind.

Googling Martin Peters back home this evening, I saw his age is now....66. And what with England in the World Cup and...Before I could start reading the Greek coffee to find out the World Cup winner like a friend of mine did this week (she reckons Spain), I halted my mind's mad march towards irrationality. Football is played on grass between 22 men and whoever scores most wins. That's it.

A fantastic moment indeed. It's always nice to dream. But now bring on the real thing.



(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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