And what's with all the fireworks being let off during the tournament in Germany? I thought after the recreation of the Battle of Berlin that saw in the new year, there couldn't be any more fireworks left in the country. But no, fireworks when each German match starts, fireworks at half-time, fireworks for each goal - and with all the goals that Germany scored, that's a lot of gunpowder igniting. During daylight too, so you don't even get to enjoy the pretty colours. Our poor cats have come out of the tournament with Gulf War Syndrome.
I am admittedly not a big football fan. The last time I went to a match was with my Dad, most of the crowd were standing on the terraces, you could have a cup of Bovril at half-time, and the score board was manually changed by an old codger in a flat cap. But even I got caught up a bit in the excitement. I think part of it was this was the first time the World Cup was held on African soil; thinking back to my student days, Soweto was then a symbol of everything that was brutally and murderously unfair about South African apartheid. But here we are with the World Cup final being played at Soweto's Soccer City Stadium, and 91 year old Nelson Mandela is in attendance. Unbelievable. I just hope Maggie Thatcher was watching and gagging on her Horlicks in the Old People's Home for the Terminally Bigoted.
There's also a certain something about now living in a country which actually has a decent national football team. Not that I'm going to gloat (4-1!) because of course Germany was also knocked out, same as England. It was just that Germany went home with a week and a half longer sun-tan. I hope the English fans didn't do a repeat of what they did after the Germany-England victory of 1996, going on a rampage randomly smashing up German cars - Mercedes, BMW ... Rover. Causing their owners to buy new cars. As if the German car industry needs another boost. But still, 4-1!
I thought the best match though was for third place: Germany vs. Uruguay. What a nail-biter that was, and then Uruguay hitting the woodwork in the last seconds which if it would have gone in would have forced another thirty minutes of play. Much better, I think, than the Spain - Netherlands final, which was all a bit too bad-tempered and scrappy.
It was funny reading the German tabloids, which were showing headlines from the British tabloids such as The Sun's "We're Ready for Germ Warfare!", and doing the equivalent of rotating their finger by their temples. 'Die Spinnen, die Briten!" commented Bild, which translates as "They're bonkers, the British!" and BTW taking a quote from the Asterix comic-books. Because whilst the British press make a big thing about playing Germany ("Herr We Go Again!" was another Sun headline. Not as good as this from The Daily Mirror in '96 though), the Germans aren't all that bothered. If there's a team that gets the Germans heated, it's a match against the Dutch. Not that a German v. England game isn't a big match for Germany too; it's just that they usually have some more important ones to go on to play afterwards.
The German tabloid depiction of English footballers and fans is summed up by this pre-match article in Bild. The headline is 'Unsere guten Jungs gegen Englands Rabauken' or 'Our Good Boys against Englands' Hooligans'. I'll let you try out Google translate to get the gist of the rest.
Anyway, the star of the 2010 World Cup pundits has got to be Paul the Psychic Octopus, who successfully predicted the outcome of all of Germany's World Cup games. Here he is being very brave to predict a defeat to Spain in the quarter finals:
Let's have a big hand, or eight, for Paul! (and a tip for the 2:30 at Newmarket).