Friday 24 November 2017

Daniel McDonnell: World Cup final has a deflating edge to it

In Sun and Shadow – An Irish Letter from Brazil: Final Day

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THERE'S a great contradiction in World Cup final day.

It should be the most exciting day of the competition, yet there's a tinge of sadness about it too.

When the final whistle is blown at the Maracana Stadium this evening, it's time for everyone to get on with their lives. That finality has a deflating edge to it.

During these competitions, it is the giddiness about tomorrow that keeps the whole show ticking along. The hypothetical discussions about what could happen next, the permutations regarding which way the draw might fall. For fans on a budget, it's about figuring out what's affordable in this vast country. In the media centre, most chats revolve around the same theme. “Where you headed to next?”

There is no such pleasure to be gleaned from discussing the various ways to get to the airport. Nobody wants to read a blog about that.

World Cup morning started peacefully. I went down to Ipanema, the beauty to the Copacabana beast in the context of the two major Rio beaches. Truthfully, you wouldn't have known it was final day.

At 9am, there was no sign of colours, no sounds of the cheering Argentines that had controlled the volume around the city the night before. Sleepy tourists meandered to the beach and sat down to soak in the sunshine. There wasn't the usual array of futvolei and football matches ongoing; it's as if there's only one match that matters now.

There is a sense that Brazil is ready to say goodbye. Certainly, they were ready to say goodbye to Argentina a long time ago and, for tonight, they are German fans for one night only.

After another crushing defeat in the third/fourth place playoff, the only thing that could cheer up the natives is if they got to see their neighbours suffering a similar kind of desolation tonight before they pack up their campervans and begin the long drive home tomorrow.

The neutrals, who are likely to be the majority in the stadium this evening – even if this doesn't come across vocally – simply hope that the match delivers a fitting end to a tournament that has provided an apt reminder of how special international football can be. And yet, within a couple of days, transfer window talk will dominate the newsfeeds; Manchester United are heading off on their pre-season tour next week and that will shift the focus to a different sphere.

This experience has revolved around the players and the fans as opposed to the agents and the speculation and the repetitive aspects of the club circus. It's a shame the curtain has to come down but, regrettably, that point has arrived. So this is the conclusion of our diary series. Now is the moment to fall back into the shadows and join the expectant throngs waiting to be entertaining.

Tonight, football will have the final word.

Online Editors

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