What's on (my mind)?
The World Cup of football, not of Quidditch, is coming our way and we must embrace it. And yet, despite the politics and the evil lurking in the shadows, I remain excited.
I remember my first World Cup, in 1986 in Mexico, a thing of scorching scenes on fuzzy TV screens of far-away exotica. Teams I'd never heard of, like Uruguay, in their sky blue and black, all dark arts and skills I'd never seen before. One beautiful player of theirs, Eduardo Acevedo, of olive complexion and olive-coloured eyes, my first crush, along with France's Dominique Rocheteau and his long black curls, who could have been one of Dumas's original Musketeers.
Stereotypes began to crystallize during 1986: the French footballers as artists, the Germans as unrelenting; the Argentines as a single man of Latin passion, flawed temperament and mercurial talent: Diego Armando Maradona.
I remember loving France in that first World Cup. Sexy and graceful, they disappeared off the map for a decade or more after and our love cooled to nothing. It was never love, just a first crush. Uruguay, a brief erotic encounter quelled by the shock of seeing them descend into physical abuse (of other teams). It could have been good, Uruguay, but why did you have to be that way? Why couldn't you control that temper of yours?
In 1986, I learned to hate the Germans. Boo, hiss, cheats. Undeserving winners, how did they keep winning? But only a few years later, I found myself slowly falling for them. Germany, the boyfriend your Father (i.e. Britain) warns you to avoid. Germany, my lover; by 1990, I brought them home, hand in hand, and gave them my soul.
I didn't have pin-up boy bands when I was a child. I had the footballers in these pictures. Let me introduce you to the boy band of my youth. Top left, my first Latino crush, Eduardo Acevedo of Uruguay. Next to him, like a singer from Duran Duran or A-ha, Denmark's Michael Laudrup. After, my blond bombshell, Germany's most gifted footballer of the 80s, who quit playing for his country at the age of 22, Bernd Schuster. Nobody talks about Schuster anymore because of his self-imposed exile, so I have him all to myself. But watch him glide and shoot for Spain's best club sides, and maybe you will see what I see in the poetry of his movements, and how good Germany could have been in the 1980s with him in their side.
Across the middle, the smouldering good looks of Michel Platini, the lithe beauty of Ruud Gullit of the Netherlands, and those long black curls of the fifth musketeer, St Etienne's Dominique Rocheteau.
Across the bottom: Brazil's anti-authoritarian all-knowing master, Socrates, looking more profound and thoughtful than his namesake of Ancient Greece. Then the grace of France's Jean Tigana, seen here in the deep claret colours of Bordeaux, and finally two bushy haired Argentinians, Maradona and rock star-looking colleague Alberto Tarantini.The World Cup opened my eyes to a world outside, one of colours and peoples and passions, of Ladybird World Cup books I clasped in my small hands as I filled in the scores, and learned that the capital of Uruguay was Montevideo. The World Cup is back. I am a child in love again.