Saturday 25 November 2017

'World Cupitis' - dealing with going cold turkey from feast of football

Bastian Schweinsteiger, holding the trophy, celebrates with his team-mates after Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup final
Bastian Schweinsteiger, holding the trophy, celebrates with his team-mates after Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup final
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

Like any ailment worth its salt, you could feel it coming but still remain powerless to stop it. 'World Cupitis' is spreading quicker than swine flu and the results are not pretty.

After 64 games played by 32 teams over the same number of days, the intoxication of football from Brazil was bound to have lasting effects.

From the most casual fan to the supporter horrified at the thought of missing the late-night kick-off between Honduras and Ecuador in Curitiba, the global event has yet again captured the imagination.

In this part of the world the kick-off times were ideally suited for those racing home after work to watch/analyse/tweet/spoof on whatever teams were doing battle in Brazil.

Hosts Brazil and Croatia got the ball rolling in what seems like far more than 33 days ago and since then television sets, conversations, Twitter feeds and airwaves have been filled with all the latest from South America.

Heroic goalkeeping displays, sterling performances from underdogs, humiliations, goals galore and some fiercely competitive encounters that required extra-time and penalties to prove there was more bite at the World Cup than simply chewy Luis’s infamous altercation with Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that while 'World Cupitis' is widespread, men appear to be displaying more extreme symptoms.

A twitchiness at around five o’clock, a general narkiness in the evening times, a freeing-up of the remote control and reverting back to weather and Garth Brooks for office small talk have been widely reported.

Bill, Eamon, John and Liam became mainstays in living-rooms and pubs around the country, ably assisted by their fellow RTE colleagues. In fact it was a World Cup that saw some figures emerge from the shadows.

Kenny Cunningham raised a few eyebrows – none more so than his own – with his forthright views and wasn’t afraid to shirk a lively debate or two with Dunphy to reinforce his point. The former Ireland defender was also cannon fodder for the continued brilliance that is Après Match.

Darragh Maloney showed he will assume Bill O’Herlihy’s mantle without any great fuss, though less likely to stoke the fires of the ‘Holy Trinity’ than the now-retired broadcaster.

The non-excitable Richie Sadlier was typically insightful, often bemused with reaction to events in Brazil while Brad Friedel was well received by viewers. The less said about the Ossie Ardiles however, the better.

In an age where sports data is now craved among supporters, it is the regular World Cup facts that will also be sorely missed.

You couldn’t but be aware that Argentina hadn’t conceded a goal in 518 minutes of World Cup football until Mario Gotze struck the all-important winner in the final, while the Germans acted like the school-bully in the playground, keeping the ball for long periods all to themselves. Joachim Low's side completed an average of 461 passes per match, more than any other side in the tournament.

Lesser known stats, ‘useless information’ to the non-fussed, have been stored in the brain, most likely never to be used again.

While I struggle to remember where I left my keys and phone charger last, I have few problems retaining the fact Colombia required fewer shots to score each goal than any one else and that the Greeks played more sideways passes than any other country in Brazil (14pc).

Maybe someday they can be used to good effect in a quiz.

Other sports were discarded on a whim. Aside from the epic final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Wimbledon barely got a look-in. The US Open coincided with the opening weekend, so many loyalties focused on the action in South America. The Open at Royal Liverpool will at least have our full attention.

Even the GAA at times  played second fiddle as one of the most exciting World Cups of all-time played out before our eyes.

Like any person experiencing the abrupt ending of an addiction (voluntarily or otherwise), it may well get worse before things improve. It will be a gradual easing back to our normal, daily routine.

That is of course until the start of the Premier League campaign, which is just 32 days away.

And then, on a slightly different level, it begins all over again.

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