The function of a World Cup is to produce a masterpiece. Without it,
a tournament can have drama and excitement and passion and all those
other good things, but it lacks the ingredient which keeps it in the
memory for years afterwards. It needs a Brazil v Italy 1982, a Brazil
v France 1986, a West Germany v Netherlands in 1988 (actually that
was the European Championship; same point, though).
Last night we got our masterpiece and...I missed it. I’d gone out for
dinner and taped the game. I still haven’t watched it yet.
On the other hand, I did once stand beside Alessandro del Piero, who scored Italy's clenching second goal last night, at a
hotel check-in. This was ten years ago. I’d gone to Turin, invited by
the Slow Food foundation. The flight got in at night and we went
straight to the hotel. It seemed oddly lively—there was a crowd
outside, the lobby was full of men in suits hanging about, it took an
age to get registered at the front desk, the bloke getting the
attention of both receptionists looked oddly familiar, a bit like
Alessandro del...the penny dropped. Juventus were staying at the same
hotel, on the night before a home game. (Staying in a hotel the night
before a home game was once seen as a ridiculously decadent foreign
practise; now all the Premiership teams do it.)
Therer were a remarkable number of hangers-on attached to Juventus—
agents, journalists, advisers, middle-men of one sort or another.
They all seemed to spend all their time in the lobby, waiting for
whoever or whatever it was they were waiting for. The area where they
did this was directly opposite the lifts, so every time you went down
in the lift, as the doors opened, you would see a little surge of
expectation as the doors opened, followed by brutal disappointment,
mirrored on every face, as they realised it was just some civilian.
It was a lesson in just how much disappointment it’s possible to
cause simply by being oneself.