In times like these I am in an ethical dilemma – should I boycott the Soccer World Cup? The Brazilian government is unleashing some really disgusting human rights abuses and police brutality excesses onto its people to get them in line for this corporate advertising event. So, I couldn’t possibly watch, could I? The problem is, I find soccer so debilitatingly boring that I would not watched these matches to begin with, which makes not watching not much of a boycott, does it?
The last soccer match I watched was the final of the last World Cup, between the Netherlands and Spain. I was in Holland, in Amsterdam, in the very center of this great city, the Leidseplein. A fun scene! Everyone was dressed in orange, and people really happy about their team making it to the final. Naturally, I headed for a coffeeshop to watch the match. The crowd was a mix of locals and tourists, and I started chatting with some Spanish folks. I took some pictures of the people streaming inside, and saw lots of smiling faces. The coffeeshop was in the basement, with the weed sales desk right next to the entrance, and a juice & coffee bar just past that. It had a lot of little tables in the corners where normally groups of friends would roll and smoke together. For the world cup, they had rearranged the seating and brought in a lot more chairs, and placed a large TV in the front of the large seating area. Everyone outfitted themselves with some smokeables and a drink, and after some preliminary ceremonies, the match began.
Kick-off. Lateral pass. Lateral pass back. Again. A grown man falls over and acts like a whiney little girl, pretending to be gravely hurt from a minor push, in the interest of procuring a penalty shot. This might or might not work. Another lateral pass. Again. Another pseudo-foul. Lateral pass. Repeat. That went on and on and on for 45 minutes. Certainly no one scored a goal. The audience in the coffeshop was reasonably anesthetized by the cannabinoids everybody had been putting into their central nervous systems and by the total absence of anything resembling an even remotely impressive athletic performance on screen. No one said anything, and while everyone directed the gaze match-wards, it was hard to notice any real excitement. About a hundred people jointly watched a lot of non-action for what seemed quite a bit longer than 45 minutes.
In Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” there is a scene when the passengers of a spaceship are awoken from artificial hibernation for a few minutes, like every hundred years or so, to find out that their spaceship is stuck on a now-uninhabited planet. A few minutes of hectic activity ensue, before they are put back into artificial hibernation for the next hundred years. That’s what the world cup final half-time in this Amsterdam coffeeshop felt like. Everyone woke up, rushed to the bar and the weed sales booth, rushed back to their seats, had a few minutes of animated discussions with their mates, and then returned to their kicking-the-round-ball-in-circles induced stupor.
What followed were more lateral passes and totally undignified efforts at acting terribly injured from non-existent fouls. I have seen men during boxing matches barely flinch when half of their face was cut open from series of viscous punches. But the “men” on the green grass on the screen thought it was appropriate to whine, wince and grimace when they happened to fall on the soft lawn. Once they saw that a penalty shot was out of question, their torturous pain left them as fast as it had come. How can one act so shameless and whimpy? Oh, I remember, they get payed shitloads of money, that always does it.
Really, nothing much happened in the 2nd half either, or in the 1st overtime. In the 2nd, I think, overtime the Spanish happened to score a goal. Soon after, the game was over. I felt as if I had spent days and days watching really nothing much going on. I wasn’t feeling bad, for obvious reasons; but definitely not particularly inspired either. Had I watched the toenails of a homeless man grow for 2 hours, I would have witnessed a very comparable amount of athletic action. On a sports-action scale from 0 to 10, where 10 is the Ali-Frazier fight ’75 in Manila, and 0 is your little niece’s first ever softball game which you were made to attend, that soccer world cup final scored at a good 0.5 – just below the lawn boles the pensioners play in the residential suburbs of Sydney, on a Sunday when grandma had not slept well. At least grandpa and uncle Bob don’t need two hours for the first score!
The crowd streamed out of the coffeeshop and out of neighboring establishments onto the Leidseplein, disappointed but too good natured and stoned to riot. Well, at least that’s something! In Austria, where I grew up, soccer often serves as a nucleation point for violence by groups of low-IQ white-thrash men. In Amsterdam, I only saw a few people cry. I went back to my hotel and found some restful sleep after this good dose of inhaled and on-screen downers.
An interesting evening for sure. Would I visit Amsterdam again? Definitely! That coffeeshop? Yep. Watch another soccer game? I think I’ll pass. This, last, world cup final was the last soccer game I will ever watch. Please, Brazilian governmental fascists, no need to tear-gas your people to keep this sleep-inducing spectacle going for my sake!