What are good friends for?

Jamaicans say that good friends are better than pocket-money. I believe it. But, do most Jamaicans have and want good friends, or are they driven in search of other kinds of relationships? To me, that’s an important question any time, but more so as we wrestle with some clear cases of searches for unfriendly relationships: abuse, crimes against persons, and actions that generally disregard the needs of others are on what my eyes land. So, I see the rapist, child abuser, gangster, loud party-keeper, speeding taxi and minibus drivers, insolent or obdurate employee (and that includes the guardians of citizens in the form of the police, mainly, but the security forces overall); and others too many to mention as in the same bag. They all need behaviour correction to give others the space to do well, and stop trying to stop others doing well. It’s too complicated to go into why they do what they do, but that does not mean that it’s ignored.

I may not answer that question directly, but I am going to do a little bit of introspection, and it’s really to test myself and see how I stack up.

A friend, whom I met about a year ago, asked me this morning ‘How goes the month?’ I started answering by saying that I had lost two dear uncles in the past week. Loss of life is something that brings burdens that may last for a long time and I am barely in the process of grieving for them, yet. But, I am staying on the positive side that comes with change and plans for change. We moved house, recently, and the process of creating order and a pleasant living environment is very gratifying. I am not a perfectionist, so I know I can function with things partly done, so long as they are done properly. My ‘office’ has its desk, computer, printer, and accessories all in order. The surrounding space is a mix of boxes and books that are awaiting placement. Bedrooms have beds. We have all our clothes. Our kitchen is well-stocked, so we can cook and eat with relative ease, subject to not yet agreeing where everything will go, and how to flow through some spaces. The garden is full of fruit trees and some have already given gifts, and I was happy to share those Otaheite apples with a friend who lives about a mile away. I got in return some grapefruit and a pot of soup. Friends and pocket-money.

I added that I had fixed some summer travel with my teenage daughter to spend 10 days with long-standing friends in Europe, pass some time with cousins, and catch some former friends in London at the same time; some other friends will come from France to find me in London for a weekend. That’s really nice. Friends and pocket-money.

I’m trying to organize a ‘Thinkathon’ for this weekend, so that some people I know can get to meet me and each other and chew over whatever we feel like for a couple of hours, in the peace of my home somewhere–garden, most likely. I hope we get to know each other a little better and that our sharing of ideas will lead to some changes, because we are also action-oriented people. Friends and pocket-money.

Outside of people, I know, I have much faith in what I know is still a major part of every day life in Jamaica: mutual respect and a willingness to do the right thing. Examples at random from the weekend:

  • My saga with Flow and getting my mobile number ported was completed by the process being done partially, as promised by Digicel, on Friday evening and then finally on Saturday morning. I am good to go. During that process, I had chance to see how Jamaican people are patient in the face of seeming provocation and do not resort to loudness or violence. Thank you, Digicel staff at Loshushan.
  • My daughter is a competitive swimmer. Hydration is important for her. She asked me to get her some coconuts so that she could get that hydration and enjoy the jelly. I passed a man on the road selling coconuts on my way to Digicel on Saturday morning. I asked him to prepare 6 coconuts and I would pick them up on my way home. I got the price and went on my way. Forty minutes later, I got back to the stall. The man was not there, but my coconuts were and ready. I paid, went home and my daughter got a good drink, not long after she had done her early morning practice. I chopped the coconut and she devoured the thick jelly.
  • Sunday was a day full of rain and greyness, and I had no plans to go anywhere, except to get gas in case I needed to go to the country. I headed to Heroes Circle in the early afternoon, after my family got back from church and their impromptu lunch. They brought me a meal and I grabbed a bite before heading out. The young man at the gas station began pumping, then started to clean my windows (not standard practice, in Jamaica). We joked about how Sundays were quiet, but also that Jamaicans don’t like rain. We exchanged pleasantries and I headed home, but had to note the men working on the new perimeter fence to the park. Men doing heavy labour on Sunday is a rare sight in Jamaica. 

So, we have good will. That is well displayed, literally, all around us in the carefreeness of many aspects of our daily life. Look at the images I captured this morning.

Typical roadside vendor
Not a care in the world

This is the Jamaica where you expect to just go about your business.

But, how do we account for those who want to disturb all that and impose mayhem and the carnage that also now a part of daily life? 

A friend took issue with the seeming lack of coverage of a murder in Cherry Gardens a few days ago. I pointed out that coverage was plentiful, if one looked in other places: local papers, Indian papers (the man who died was an Indian citizen), India’s High Commissioner and Jamaica’s PM and senior Cabinet ministers made remarks about the incident, including about the safety of Indian nationals, that I saw on social media, and India’s foreign minister had also commented. My friend then changed his tune to say that it wasn’t on the front pages (whatever that means in the world of electronic publishing and social media). I presume he wanted to see a prominent reference to ‘uptown’ in the pages of murders. There’s a bizarre sentiment, for you, in the mould of ‘uptown lives matter’. But, I also thought that the essence of the murder was not such as to make it a crime of locality: people in the jewellery trade, as Rakesh Talreja was, are often targets of crime, for clear reasons. He could have been robbed anywhere between his work place and his home, depending on opportunity. But, that’s not to excuse the crime in any way.

Finally, I look back at the measures the PM announced to tackle crime. People have focused on ‘preventative detention’ and efforts to get taxis to remove tinted glass. I wont say much on either of these points. But, the latter exposed how unfriendly we have become. Put simply, the taxi drivers oppose being ordered to remove the tinting, in part with good reason–the law allows some level of tinting. So, the taximen have to decide if they should lose all tinting for the sake of safety or press to keep some tinting for the sake of protecting something the law allows. To me, it’s a question of the greater good versus the good of a few. I think that most people would go for the greater good. TOday, the taximen will discuss the issue with government. But, my beef with them is that, rather than deal with their many transgressions themselves (overcrowding, loud music, inconsiderate road use, speeding, breaking road rules, etc) they seek to defend a ‘right’ when it seems it may be lost. In other words, they do not really care for the rest of us but are focused narrowly on their own satisfaction. Taximen are not friends of Jamaica, it seems.

Their self-interested actions offer an uncomfortable lesson. How far can we go if we are only going to move if dragged?

 

Canadians, pacific

Many Jamaican stories go untold.

Canada has had a long and positive relationship with Canada. For many Jamaican families that is evidenced by connections with the agricultural work program, or through education in Canada, or through banking and finance. Many Jamaicans have met visiting tourists from Canada, some of whom may be family relatives, after waves of migration.

I bumped into a piece of that connection, yesterday. I was in Montego Bay, having offered to drive a group of caddies there to play in their national golf tournament. Before that started, a friend and I played nine holes and had a good chat. His son is a budding pro and is trying to make it in Europe. My friend and his wife are trying to support that from afar, but with some efforts the involve travelling to Europe. Along the way, we played some decent golf. We saw a few groups of tourists playing, one set seemed to be in a competition.

After we had played, the caddies were about to set off, at noon, a bit behind schedule, but mainly due to the tourists needing to clear the course.

As we wandered around the course watching those I knew well perform, W
we noticed a group of people driving around in a set of golf buggies. That seemed odd. First, they were white men, watching a group of black Jamaican golfers. Second, they had no golf clubs on their carts. Third, they did not have cameras, so did not appear to be media doing a PR event. They did not look like scouts, but… They were keenly paying attention, and I assumed they knew some of the players.

I then took a break, when my friend got hungry and decided to head home to his wife and lunch. A group of the tourists came by, all hot, sweaty and thirsty. We got chatting. They were visiting from Canada. Our tourism season is getting back into gear and ‘snowbirds’ are a common sight at this time of year. They all looked as red as maple leaves in autumn. They were playing golf every day in the mornings. We shared a few jokes and a few pleasantries, then they headed off in their bus.

Another Jamaican member of the club, whom I had played with before, came by. He was dressed for golf. However, he was not playing, having taken his car in for repairs and now waiting to hear when it would be ready. He lives in Canada and comes down for the colder months…one of ‘our’ snow birds. He wanted to watch the tournament, so grabbed a buggy. Off we went.

We caught up with the groups and took up a good viewpoint to see several of them playing. Along came a group of the ‘followers’, one driving a refreshment cart, that looked empty. “Pity that doesn’t have any drinks,” I noted. The driver puffed on his cigar. “It does. We have beer,” he said with a smirk. Voila! Not so cold Red Stripe was in one side. We took gladly the bottles offered and got talking. They told us they were the sponsors of the tournament and we’re just offering some good cheer to the players.

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Product placement moment, thanks to the sponsors

They went on to explain that they were part of a bigger group, and a bunch of them were golfers and had played earlier, but had gone back to rest. I said that I had met some of them, earlier. We parted company as they went to watch others play. We stayed with our groups for a while longer.

But, I was getting hungry and also needed to meet a friend who was going to travel back to town with me. We headed to the club house. Up rolled the beer wagon. They were very generous because they were ready to just put the remaining beers on the bar for whoever wanted them. They saw me sitting on a bench and came over. They asked if I wanted to go with the to their house for a chance to cool off. They also offered the same to the tournament director, whom I know. He’d just bought his lunch, so declined. I presumed that their relationship with the club meant they were less likely to kidnap me, so took up their offer. I drove my own car and we went to a large house near Half Moon. Nice, I thought.

A large tanker with gas was pulling in as we arrived. I could guess the house needed a lot of fuel. We entered and I thought I was in a frat house, as men were everywhere–in the pool, on laptops, smoking cigars, drinking beer, eating chips. I recognized some of those I’d seen earlier at the club. My host did the introductions. Life went back to normal.

My host explained that his family has been visiting Jamaica since the 1950s, and his father had begun the caddies tournament. Over the years, they’d gotten to know many of the caddies and the relationship was close. I explained that I’d brought some players up from Kingston.

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Luke, new driver in hand and ready to hit the 360 yard mark.
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Drinking and driving rules apply to the golf course?
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Rhino, wearing a shirt that looks remarkably similar to one I own 🙂 Posing like he wants to be in GQ.

I could confirm that the players were appreciative of the opportunity they had to play. The caddies who work on the north coast can do well from their tourist visitors, who predominate; those in Kingston have a harder time, with local members being the bulk of the players. The flow of US dollars can be liberal from the pockets of the tourists, as I’d seen first hand earlier in the day. But, that wasn’t my issue, now.

We talked about Jamaica and how tourists from North America often see little of life and culture on the island. My host took the opportunity to change that by driving around and showing his friends sides of the island less seen and experienced. He had gotten comfortable over the years, and understood how that was not an instant change. Curried goat? Plantain porridge? Mannish water? Steamed fish…with the head still on? Things we may take for granted, but high on the list of bizarre food for many foreigners.

It was a cozy hour. My friend called me and told me she could not find me at the club. I explained what I was doing. I thanked my host and scooted up the road to Cinnamon Hill. My friend had come up to watch the Reggae Boyz on Sunday, and had spent time with a cousin eating fish. She brought me a large fried Escoveitch fish, wrapped in foil. It was still piping hot. I decided to try to eat it and take her to see some of the golf. I explained my little diversion. The fish was great. It hit the spot, after seven hours without a proper meal. We followed the final holes of our good friends.

The tournament ended and the golfers trailed in for their late lunch. The Canadians rolled In, with more beer and cigars. They went around slapping backs and laughing. We met up, again. The caterers had made sorrel, and my friend and I were enjoying a glass. We explained to some of the Canadians what it was. “Sarin?” one said. “Sorrow?” he asked. They were having trouble with the syllables and the and the sounds. But, they liked the taste. They liked the idea of it being sampled with rum, white or dark. They called over their group: “Try this!” They sampled and sipped. They smiled and drank more.

The prize giving started and my host from earlier took centre stage. He was brief, though, and handed over duties to his group of friends to hand over the prizes.

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Mark, one of the Canadian sponsors, thanking all for making the tournament a success.
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Easton Williams won 2nd prize in his senior category, and helped teach Canadians how to say ‘sorrel’.

Hail fellows, well met.

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Mark and Carl with the Beer-mobile

Go, Canada!

How could the beautiful game get so ugly? Brazil 1-Germany 7, is how.

I wrote previously that the notion that football is boring, or low-scoring, is a crock. I think that everyone, other than the most rabid partisans, went into yesterday’s semifinal between Brazil and Germany thinking it would be a close, tense match. That’s what we expect at these late stages and what these teams have served recently. Well, Germany rewrote the book. In a first half that surpassed stunning, they poured five goals past Brazil, three coming in a three minute spell that had people gasping for air.

As a former player watching as a neutral, but wanting to see Brazil win, my reactions were simple. When the first chances fell to Brazil, it looked as if they had a way to open the German defence. They’d struggled to do that easily in previous games, and without Neymar as playmaker and scorer, things looked good. But, forget that. In case a corner, men charged towards the near post, David Luiz was badly out of position and behind him came the predator, Muller, to volley side footed into the net. That’s alright: 1-0, and plenty of time.

We were watching the match in a hotel restaurant, just on the coast down from Ipanema. My wife had gotten everyone yellow Brazil shirts, and a green and yellow wig for our daughter.

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We are Brazil for a day
We’d walked along Copacabana beach to get there, through a throng heading the other way, towards the Fan Fest area, with its large, outdoor screen. Everyone, bar a few, including some Australians with an inflated kangaroo, for the home team.

At the restaurant, we could see one of the favelas on a hillside. The hill was covered in dark clouds.

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Looming clouds, a portent

Rain had fallen earlier in the day, as forecast. But, I asked if this was an omen. No one replied. Lightning started to fork as we waited for our meals, and the rain lashed down. Some municipal guards came inside for shelter. The TV blanked out. Groans. The image came back. Cheers. “Iron out the kinks now,” someone said. Our food arrived. We started to deal with it, but were bothered by rain coming in from a side window. Then, another patron pointed to water on the floor. A pipe had burst and water was jetting up through the floor, and rolling towards us. Bags and things were grabbed off the floor. A man put his foot over the hole from where the water was coming. Germany scored their second goal. By the time we had rearranged ourselves, Germany had scored two more. Three goals in three minutes. I looked at the dark sky.

The screen was filled with images of crying fans. Brazilian players were looking as though they has seen a ghost. Where was Christ the a Redeemer? The game was half an hour in. Coach Scolari waved his arms, and mouthed what seemed like instructions. The analysis started. But, only one question, really: what was happening? Records were being shattered. “Stay positive,” my wife and her Bahamian friend muttered. Germany scored a fifth. Good, Lord. This was a disaster. http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/photos/galleries/y=2014/m=7/gallery=brasil-alemania-en-imagenes-2401948-2401954.html#2401884

I’ve never seen anything like this. Brazil had for years been known to be bad at defending, but goal scoring kept them above others. Then, they learned how to defend and how to be rough, thanks to Scolari in an earlier presence. The teams never had the magical flair of the 1970 team, but Brazil kept winning or being close. No more beautiful game, but still plenty of trophies. Winning ugly, even with the much disliked penalty shootout. Brazil was never routed, though. Now, this: down 5-0 at half time.

The second half began with promise and also portents. Brazil created clear chances, but failed to beat the German keeper, either through his good position in or through sloppy and hasty shooting. Then, a Germany break away. Here we go again, 6-0. Skip the detail, then 7-0. That Brazil got a consolation goal to end up losing 7-1, is irrelevant. The tears flowed as hard as the rain drenching outside. More analysis. My older daughter and I are football coaches, so we went into the Xs and Os of what system seemed to be used, and who seemed to not be playing well or being invisible.

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Big Phil with little to say

It didn’t really matter, because a top level international team had been royally schooled, stripped naked, and thrown out into the freezing cold of a humiliating defeat. Worst of all, at home. The hopes of a nation drowned. The little happiness that football had brought was now replaced by the dread that would be there for eternity. No loss of face from a defeat by Argentina in the final. This was unimaginable and much worse. No need for the statistics and records. Worst of most things to do with Brazilian football was written into the stone tablets of history. I thought of Pele, and knew he must be shedding tears so hard and salty that all around him had to cry, too.

We eventually left the hotel and went to a bar in Ipanema. We had heard reports that ‘manifestations’ were happening in Copacabana, and that riot police were out dealing with that, so wanted things to cool down. We’d seen the heavy deployment of security personnel on our way to watch the game. By the time we reached the bar, owned originally by the writer of the song ‘Girl from Ipanema’, Vinícius de Moraes, the rain was teeming down.
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We got out of the cab and joked with some Americans who’d watched the game outdoors and were drenched. The rain poured for about another two hours. Any riotous intentions were likely being washed away, literally.

We watched post match analyses, and saw the drawn face of the Brazil coach, his tearful captain and vice captain, the Joyous but respectful German team representatives. We couldn’t hear their words, but I thought I could discern their sentiments. We drank coffee and ate dessert. Someone mentioned listening to music upstairs later. Most of us had no interest. We headed out into the flooded streets to hail a cab.
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One stopped soon, and we forded the water to get in. We all had soaked feet, to rub in the ignominy of defeat (a pun?). Rain had eased, and as we approached Copacabana, we saw drying streets, and people having a normal-looking evening: little groups by bars, waving hands in animation, people with little bags of shopping.

Someone said that Brazilians have short memories, and the politicians will hope so, as elections approach in October. History has its entry, and short memories won’t erase that. Will it matter? Who knows. The players now have embarrassment engraved into their character. The joy of previous wins, especially against Colombia a few evenings ago, are like ashes now. The ecstatic face of David Luiz after he scored his stunning free kick could not compare to his tear-drenched look, as the defeated captain. That mantle, given to him because the actual captain, Thiago Silva, was suspended. Thanks, a lot.

And Neymar? Spared actually playing because of a broken vertebra. The speculation will never end about whether his injury and absence were the real difference. If Brazil had lost heart before the match. If Brazil had no hope without him during the match. He can score. Fred and Hulk cannot, with regularity. As one analyst wrote, the needed a syllable or two to be Brazilian greats, like Pé-lé, Rivelino, Tostao, Romero, Ronaldo. One syllable is like having only one foot in football.

Though the context is completely different, I can only think of Stevie Wonder’s lyrics for ‘I believe…’:

Shattered dreams, worthless years,
Here am I encased inside a hollow shell,
Life began, then was done,
Now I stare into a cold and empty well

The search for scapegoats has already begun. It will hunt through the team from its top, naturally. One trenchant critique, by Bleacher report, says much with which I would agree: David Luiz was pivotal (read here). If he played, the wrong role, however, was that by personal design or with coach’s approval? He was not the only player whose assignment seemed mixed up. We will hear more as days pass.

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Brazil has to believe in itself like never before. A pointless match for third place comes on Saturday. The pressure to win and play well should be there, but it will be muted by the lump in the throat that is missing out on the final. Whoever wins on Sunday, it cannot be Brazil. That dashed hope, like a burning flame, snuffed out.

The beautiful game is now about to get deadly serious: Brazil 2014 semifinals

This is my third time being in the host country during the World Cup final stages. In England, 1966 was all about World Cup Willie and that ‘We’ll win the cup.” So, it turned out, and a victory so steeped in historical significance, as West Germany were beaten on the hallowed turf of Wembley.

20140708-120148-43308443.jpg I’d like to say that the word for the tournament should have been lionized. I really remember many things apart from the final. The kicking of Pele. The rise of Eusebio. The horrible tactics of the Argentina team, especially, Ratín. England playing in red, and the country full of bulldog spirit.20140708-121213-43933310.jpg I was wrapped up in it all. The West Ham trio of Hurst, Moore, and Peters were national heroes, so was manager, Alf Ramsey.

Twenty years later, I was on a working visit to Latin America, including Mexico in time for the final game. My boss had hooked up his tickets; I had to fend for myself. I did alright, snagging a pair from a tout at face value. My friend and I were right behind a goal, with a perfect view. The final was superb play and drama, with Argentina, blessed with the imagination and guile of Maradona, overcoming Germany, again. I was bitter that the Argentines were in the final, having cheated England out of the semifinals, with Maradona’s handball goal. But, I swallowed that as I feasted on my luck, seated at the final.

The endearing image of 1986 was Maradona, good and bad. It was his tournament.

The whole trip was intriguing, involving mainly meetings with central bankers, finance ministry officials, and commercial bankers, about how to get the region’s major debtors out of their debt crises, which had started with Mexico declaring default in 1982. Some of our meetings were interrupted by football, never the other way around, as we moved through Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico, as the region sought solace in the bliss that was football.

It’s only now that I notice that Germany was a constant, getting to the final each time I was present, and losing. Ominous? My Brazilian hosts must hope so. They have ready made excuses if they fall now, having lost one of their stars to injury. No more, Neymar.
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But, they have Christ the Redeemer looking over them in many ways. The statue is the dominant image of Rio. But, religion is taken seriously here, and saying that football is religion is no mere cliche. I think Brazilians feel that they will win at home. But, they are afraid…of Argentina. The rivalries between the two countries are long-lived, deep-seated, and ready to flare up over football. Brazil could lose to any country, but not Argentina. It would be beyond grief, if they lose. The ecstasy side would be simpler…party, forever.

Brazil has left one great image, the image of David Luiz scoring against Colombia in the quarterfinal. The free kick was sublime: a knuckleball kick, with ball not rotating and hit the net from about 25 meters. Watch it. Then see his glory run. Pure relief for him and 190 million others.

Churches are decked in yellow and green bunting, their insides bathed in green light.

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National colour on everything

If praying counted, the match will be Brazil’s.

Fans are donning their green and yellow garb, teeth are not spared. My wife has turned our troupe into Neymar babies. One paper had masks of the fallen hero. We are all number 10.

Heavy rain has just started, a few hours before the match. An omen? Pull out the rosaries.

Football is so boring! Brazil 2014 says you’re wrong.

Since the final stages of the World Cup started, I’ve written about it more than anything else. Why? Because the so-called ‘greatest show on Earth’ has been just that. Football fans love drama, excitement, uncertainty, controversy, beautiful play, stunning goals, and more. We have had all of that in spadefuls. You want drama? Get it early, as when the USA’s Clint Dempsey scored against Ghana within one minute of the start. Whatever plans Ghana had went out of the window, because they were in the hot seat. You want excitement? The dying minutes of The Netherlands against Mexico this weekend had too much. Only minutes left and Mexico were sailing into the quarter finals. The Dutch had tried, but close is never enough in football. Wesley Sneijder had played an almost invisible role. Then he was left all alone on the edge of the penalty box, and boom, the ball was sailing into the back of the net past the otherwise unbeatable Ochoa: 1-1. Into added time, and Robben jinked into the area, stopped on a Euro and turned and pushed the ball back toward the penalty spot. Out came the lunging foot of Rafa Marquez, onto Robben’s foot.

Penalty, as clear as day
Penalty, as clear as day

Oh, dear. Why, Rafa? Pheep! Penalty! Up steps Hintelaar, and down went Mexico. Pande-bloody-monium! 2-1. The Dutch win. Mexico are crushed flat as a tortilla. Uncertainty? Hello, Greece? Can you play against Costa Rica’s 10 men for most of the second half and into additional time and not win, please? Then watch the Ticos score their first four penalties? You score your first three, then miss the fourth? The Ticos score their fifth, and win 5-3 on PKs? Too unlikely? Wrong! Broken plates all around cannot undo that reality. Controversy? Well, how do you want that served? You like the ‘man bits man’ variety provided by Luis Suárez, and his uncontrollable jaws? (At least, he had the decency to stop that lunatic defence of stumbling and falling into Chiellini’s shoulder. Whether or not he came clean because Barcelona said they wanted to see clean teeth, I don’t know. I hope his grandmother and all the politicians jumping up to shout conspiracy and ‘we are the victims’ will put away the masks.) Or do you want the variety served up by African countries? Cameroon, ahead of the games, Ghana and Nigeria during the knock-out stages, all got tripped up by the green stuff. Not grass, but the crispy, crunchy, paper (or into my Swiss account) type. Cue Pink Floyd. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy04c-6DEgE Or you want the (assistant) referee who disallowed what seem like two good goals by Mexico in their opening round win against Cameroon, and has to be sent home variety? He was Colombian and any suspicions… Or match-fixing allegations being investigated by the Cameroon football federation. Beautiful play? When does the word that sound like Messi get used when the maestro is at work. Tell me his winner against Iran was not a thing of sheer beauty and grace. Tell me! A left foot like his could win elections in many countries, and need no platform. Comparisons with Maradona are not needed: Lio-nel is himself. Two Argentines with such sublime left feet. For those, who only watch the World Cup, realise that he does it all the time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEiWfRPx9sM Stunning goals? Messi again. Tim Cahill’s rocket volley. James Rodriguez’s volley for Colombia against Uruguay: back to goal, chest trap, swivel, ball does not touch the ground, smack with left foot, goalie tips it to underside of bar, ball nestles into net. Gooooaaaallllassssooooo!

Watch as admire Rodriguez's volley
Watch as admire Rodriguez’s volley

Check the other candidates in the eyes of one British paper. Phew! Where were we? What else? Up to yesterday, more goals, 150, (not including in penalty shoot-outs) had been scored than in South Africa in 2010 and we still have 10 or so matches to play. The goals have been coming is bundles, at 2.78 a game, a high number for those who worry about low scores, which football fans don’t. Technology now allows us to be up-to-date in real-time, and that is wonderful. Check out some of the statistics. Some extraordinary interactive data have been prepared, including a set that shows from which clubs all the players come. I cannot wait to hit Rio in a day or so. It’s one thing to watch matches on TV. I may not get to see a match up close and personal. But, the atmosphere of live football going on around you is intoxicating. I’m glad to say that I have a lot of women friends who are mad football fans. Men have their passion, but women get absolutely delirious, plus they get into stuff most guys do not, such as the size and shape of thighs and butt cheeks. But, that’s the sport. The manufacturers are helping us buy into the many new aspects of football. Shoes that are more colours than in the rainbow: Adidas, Nike, Puma are duking it out.

It's the shoes for Brazil 2014
It’s the shoes for Brazil 2014

The players, too, add to the hype: their celebration dances, which are now group affairs; their hair cuts, which seem crazier each game. Their little rituals. Officials have been slow to get in on the act, as is right. But, the power of the spray can. Almost as iconic as the vuvuzela? Stretching it, right? Well, another few hours before one more spin of the wheel on this crazy tournament. Some people have found other things to fascinate them. I have no clue what that could be. All activities should be shaped around the World Cup schedule. Play golf? Start at 7am, finish by 10.30. Home by 10.55. Game on. It’s really simple. All tasks must fit into half-time window. Phone, if they ring, will be ignored. “Dad, can I take the car to Timbuktu?” Yes, just be back by half time. I feel sorry for those in the USA who try to dish football (soccer) as some evil, alien force–the most ridiculous of which must be Ann Coulter. I’m glad that I have a huge number of American friends who are as crazy about the World Cup (that truly represents most of the world) as many are about the so-called ‘World Series'(which covers the 50 states of the USA). But, that’s a topic for a boring dinner party. Today, they will get the chance to show their real interest. They already celebrated great goals. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUnO2AJVJ6c They will be getting used to the irony that their German coach has managed to find many German-Americans, who speak German better than English, but have great pedigrees if not college degrees. Top players can look like Rastamen, but speak of nothing to do with jerk as a food. That is part of the fabulous gift that is this so mesmerizing and enthralling sport.