Monday, June 07, 2010

Since I am not in Cape Town

The 2010 World Cup starts this week!

20 years ago I went to the World Cup in Italy.

Italia 90.

My friends and co-workers were - mostly - unimpressed. Although the Italy portion of the trip was considered pretty cool.

I also attended games in 1994 in the Rose Bowl, made some plans that didn't happen for 1998, and didn't consider another World Cup to be a realistic plan until South Africa was awarded the 2010 cup. The plan was to go to South Africa for 10-14 days, fly up to Cairo for a weekend, go across to Italy and visit my old friend, take a train to London, and then fly home. I had a long time Liverpool supporter pen pal in Cape Town ... who moved to New Zealand. So, the option of trying to set up a trip was realistically squelched.

A road trip to Yakima beckons instead.

Anyways, since I had to cancel (technically I only canceled plans to plan a trip) my trip and do not have all sorts of photos and stories to gloat about on this blog I decided to post a little retrospect of my trip 20 years ago.

20 years ago (!?!) the US of A made its triumphant return to the World cup after 40 years. 40 years earlier we had stunned the world by beating England 1-0. Today, the rematch. In 1990, a resounding 5-1 pounding at the hands of Czechoslovakia. I think the Czechs actually held back. It was Florence, a beautiful day, and a small group of Americans supporting our team. I have recounted my experience getting my Czech flag in a post a few years ago. This was a truly great day. I have no photos though, because the mother of my friend did not think it was safe for me to bring my camera. The guy next to me was convinced we would win and advance out of our group because this game and the Austria game were "winnable". Well, we scored in those two games ...

The second US game against Italy was worrisome. All day in Rome people would hold up both hands to indicate a ten goal barrage was coming. It was hard to doubt them. It didn't happen. Italy did win 1-0 on an early goal, but they lost interest, the US stayed with them, and late in the game nearly got an equalizer. The Italian crowd was not amused. Pete Davies' account of this game is frighteningly accurate in All Played Out.

I had the opportunity to see Roma for a couple of days, become a member of a Scottish pub, and to attend Saturday Evening Mass at the Vatican. Mandela was to be at the Vatican the next day so I missed out on a John Paul II appearance as he was reportedly resting and preparing for the visit. Also, I took a nap in the Coliseum. Waking up sitting on a giant rock to look out and see that sight will always stick with me.

Pompei was a worthwhile day trip. I met a number of fellow recent college grads slash current students from the east coast and hung with them for the day. Our group also included a Swiss kid just daytripping around.

I was hoping to catch a game in Palermo between Egypt and Holland, but travel considerations and my lack of adequate planning of such travel arrangements made it not happen. I did catch a third game while in Naples between the Argentines and Soviets that Argentina won 2-0. Naples is a crazy, crazy town and I loved it. I got to pal around with the friends of my friend and saw some cool sights. Anyone who has ever heard my story about how I was to recognize the girl in the train station has heard me discuss this particular day at length before. It started in Pompeii, led to Naples where I was to find "the most beautiful girl in train station", involved watching Maradona in Naples (he was with Napoli at the time and when I recently saw Manny and the Dodgers at their Spring Training stadium I got the same feeling about how Dodger fans feel about Manny being much like Napoli fans and Maradona - long story short is don't call him Ramiroids), and ended up with a late gathering of people in a sidewalk seating section of a very old pizzeria and crashing on the couch of "the most beautiful girl at the train station".

Completely random but still sort of 2010 relevant soccerish side note is that on the plane I saw the movie Coupe de Ville, which was directed by Sounders FC owner Joe Roth.

Italy was amazing. The beach at Ravenna was beautiful and I got to play beach soccer with a couple of women from the Dutch national team. I watched a home Italy game on TV with my friend's family, and let me tell you that was an intense room. The wine country I stayed in was breath taking. I took in Saturday Evening Mass at the Vatican with who I think is now the current pope. And, I watched Italy play in Rome ...

20 years ago?