Monday 24 October 2016

Why we all feel so empty now that World Cup 2014 is over

Marie Murphy

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

Germany's Mario Goetze celebrates his goal against Argentina infront of teammate Thomas Mueller during extra time. Reuters
Germany's Mario Goetze celebrates his goal against Argentina infront of teammate Thomas Mueller during extra time. Reuters
Bastian Schweinsteiger, holding the trophy, celebrates with his team-mates after Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in the final of the World Cup at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last night. PA
Germany's Mario Goetze shoots to score a goal past Argentina's goalkeeper Sergio Romero during extra time. Reuters
Germany's Mario Gotze celebrate winning the World Cup after the FIFA World Cup Final at the Estadio do Maracana

WITH the end of the World Cup 2014, a global mourning has begun. Regardless of who you wanted to win or lose there is emptiness when it is over.

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The closing ceremony marked the end of the social, emotional and psychological benefits of a world united by the togetherness of competition and reverence for the youth, skill, fitness, agility, determination and heroism of young men fighting for national honour.

Heady stuff. It kept us going for the past month. Now the journey back to reality begins.

Of course, the World Cup is not just about football.

It is big business: high finance; multi-million advertising; showcasing of countries; sourcing of talent; national identity; and recognition and cohesion.

For the ordinary fan it is one of the best forms of psychological therapy. Since the opening match between Brazil and Croatia, not a day has gone by without the thrill of something to talk about, something to look forward to, something to debate, players to analyse and arrangements for watching the next match. As the games have progressed, their psychological and sociological impact has grown.

Matches are microcosms of life with all its fortunes, misfortunes, trials, tricks, skulduggery, manipulation, magnificence, ruthlessness and resignation.

Life like the World Cup is not over 'til it's over. We just have to keep playing our best all the time.

As the weeks have progressed, matches have united many families and there have been shifting alliances and coalitions amongst friends, strangers and workmates and all kinds of otherwise odd bedfellows from all walks of life who have found that they share a passion for the sport and new respect for each other. Even with Ireland out of it, interesting affiliations have arisen with people supporting countries to which their children have emigrated and with the diversity in home population, partners have been shouting for opposing teams.

For children, there are deep subliminal psychological messages.

They learn that the mighty can fall, the underdog can win, persistence pays, never give up. They have seen injustice, fair play and foul, faking injury, accepting authority, the futility of uncontrolled anger, the consequences if frustration becomes aggression and the fine face of true sportsmanship.

The World Cup shows children the importance of fitness, practice and team play, loyalty, courage and that nothing is achieved without effort, pain and self-control. Life brings physical and moral injuries to all who participate but who wouldn't want to be playing the game.

The World Cup reflects our own life experiences, and if we are lucky, each of us have had moments akin to the thrill of the win, triumph in adversity, or simply surviving when all the odds were against us.

Few of us will have escaped moments of humiliation and defeat; times when we did not live up to expectations, when we missed our chance, made the wrong choice, went the wrong way, misjudged, mismanaged and lost. We know what it's like to come close, when we should have run with the ball, when we lost our courage and did not follow through. Almost everyone has suffered injustice at some time in life and the frustration of what is patently visibly unfair. Life brings physical and moral injuries to all who participate. Defeat is one thing, humiliation is another and resonances were high for many when the machine of German skill was at 7-0 against Brazil and then the miracle – the redemption in the goal by Oscar that showed that even when all the chips are down you just don't give up.

Perhaps that's the most potent psychological message of the World Cup – never to give up.

When suicide rates are high, it is time to remember that circumstances change, miracles happen, time resolves things, everyone gets their turn, nothing lasts forever, either happiness or sadness, victory or defeat.

We are sad that World Cup 2014 is over. It has been an antidote to isolation, loneliness and depression. It has united us. It has occupied our thoughts, diverted us from problems. It has made us laugh watching grown men clutching themselves behind a line of shaving foam jockeying to protect their person and their nation. Many times it has made us cry.

And there is a double loss for us Irish fans with the departure of Bill O'Herlihy as commentator for so many years. He worked with Eamon Dunphy since the 70s with Johnny Giles since the 80s and Liam Brady since the 90s.

World Cups measure the passage of time, our own ageing, gains and losses, beginnings and endings and the poignancy of life.

Dr Marie Murray is clinical psychologist, author and broadcaster

Irish Independent

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