How to survive the World Cup

JUNE 12 — The World Cup begins today!

Welcome to the greatest show on earth, and witness Malaysian lives ruined by the spectacle — as 100+ hours of football over 30 days during ungodly times unwittingly turn fans to willing zombies. Redbull sales will hit new heights, and roti canai our daily bread.

What to expect then?

Fandom

Fan sightings, they will be aplenty.

Easy enough to spot fans who are in varying degrees of zombie-ness, but to tell them apart requires another skill altogether. The thing is non-native fans are curious oddities. They are coloured by the football their teams carry.

The English fans are perpetually bipolar, always screaming about how good they are — were — and then become self-deprecatory after their routine exit. This year they return to the scene of the crime, the original sin which explains their low success levels.

A condescending England then belatedly entered the World Cup for the first time after the Second World War, and it was in Brazil. Arriving to win as a matter of course since it is their sport, they lost to a group of migrant amateurs who made up the US national team.

They’ve made losing a habit ever since. Even when Beckham could bend it as much as he wanted, England got bent eventually.

My friend says supporting England means being in perpetual cycles of soul-destroying emotions — with every new football tragedy threatening to top previous shambles.

An Englishman has no choice in the matter, but why those far away would want to volunteer their support to the Three Lions he said baffled him. It baffles many. Science will one day answer this phenomenon.

While we wait for science to do what it does, English players and fans work hard to cope with underachievement, usually at bars.

How about the others?

Dour Germans but they win things, the Spanish Armada is on the wane and their shirt sales are set to dip post-July, while the Italians are only different from the Germans in that they win slightly less — but still demonstrably more than England — and dress better.

The South Americans fans steal the show inside stadiums with their overpowering music, dancing and flesh — not necessarily in that order.

And while Brazil may be a destination with too many expensive inter-connecting flights to get to, the football and passion will remain the obsession here, even with the fasting month beginning when the second round kicks-off.

The zombie army of all hue and madness is ready, starting tonight.

Malaysia under siege

While pollution, new economic theories and distributing free condoms in schools are excellent discussion items — and important ― they are completely unnecessary when a football match is on.

In short, productivity might take a left hook to the lower chin and stay down for the count.

There will be a suspiciously low number of morning meetings till after July 14. By then, many lies would have been concocted to avoid previously scheduled appointments. And when the lies catch up to them, there is only one way out, move to a more hospitable country that appreciates the need to only worry about football in a World Cup month.

No prisoners here, as even relationships will struggle. Wives and girlfriends would be alarmed that their partners only want to talk about football. Husbands and boyfriends will be alarmed that their partners actually think there is something else to talk about, say pollution, new economic theories and distributing free condoms in schools, issues that continue to be important.

They all are, but that’s not a reason to start comparing earthly things with the World Cup.

Well-meaning partners might think it is unhealthy and request for an adult intervention about this silly preoccupation which revolves around a ball moved about a pitch in a stadium no one has heard of. Bad move, bad move.

Others, with the help of self-help books — written by Americans, large RED LIGHT here — try to engage by talking about football, like results. It may be worth remembering, the word “fan” is “fanatic” shortened. There is no rhyme nor reason, and don’t tell him that losing was OK — that there is another World Cup in four years!

Yes, at times these fans may end up not feeding their dog and even their children. They won’t shave if it is good luck for their teams and later one shave any particular part if it does the same for their teams. There will be occasions in the afternoon they will be caught looking off to the distance, before breaking into a sob.

It’s the World Cup, all they want now is to be with their fellow sufferers, or just left alone.

64 matches to go

If the final decides who becomes world champions, what do the previous 63 matches leading to it mean? Everything.

National teams are not the most efficient or attractive when compared to club teams, but they produce the drama club football can only dream about. The high stakes showdowns competed by squads assembled for limited periods in any calendar year will always produce stories to capture the imagination.

An artist paints a wall mural of the Brazilian national team and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ahead of the 2014 World Cup, in Rio de Janeiro. — Reuters pic
An artist paints a wall mural of the Brazilian national team and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ahead of the 2014 World Cup, in Rio de Janeiro. — Reuters pic

A fascist leader giving ultimatums to his players to win or otherwise — it worked!  A man who made Brazil cry; the Magyars denied by war, history and maniacal Germans; the animals that Sir Alf Ramsey did not want his players to shake hands with; a junta bribing its way to the final; the Italian Job on Eder, Falcao, Zico and Socrates; god himself giving a special man a hand to beat a nation his nation’s military could not; the midday heat of California relegating a clash of the titans to a survivor test decided — for the first time in a final — by penalties; controversy after controversy as one Asian host made it to the semi-finals, with its star striker sacked by his Italian employers thereafter for a goal; and a legend retiring in disgrace by head-butting his opponent in his last football match after inspiring an unexpected run to the final.

The UEFA Champions League has great matches and the best players in one continent, but outside sports pundits few will remember the entirety of any title run and the also-rans.

The World Cup in a month is a microcosm of everything there is about the world of football in one place, providing a narrative of the beautiful game no matter what the outcome is —  for the people; those who love football, know football or hear things about it.

When so many speak about the same thing, they are inadvertently speaking in a way that brings the world together quicker than any peace summit.

Who will win?

I support Malaysia, and I will see my country at the World Cup finals one day. That has to be said.

For this edition, and I hate saying this, but Argentina may just do the impossible, win on Brazilian soil with the hosts imploding.

But stranger things have happened at World Cups. That’s half the attraction.

That’s why Malaysians are going zombie for a month, and not going to regret it.

Another World Cup, here we go now. Oh yes, how to survive this World Cup? Actually there is no escaping any World Cup, there is only one option. Get involved. It's on a telly near you.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.