Photo by Wikifreund (Wikimedia Commons)
“The... Cup embodies not so much the football of the future, but an idea of the football of the past. If modern football means stress, pressure... poison and dirt, then the Cup is like a treasured memory of happy experiences.”
That's from Filippo Maria Ricci's book on African Football, Elephants, Lions and Eagles and is talking about the African Cup of Nations, a trophy he clearly adores above all others. But the sentiment of what he means sums up why I enjoyed this Women's World Cup. It was reassuringly free of egos and of diving. Of overkill and of Alan Shearer. But don't worry too much, they'll catch up.
Surely, as the African Cup of Nations will never be the same after the tragic events in Angola a couple of years ago, the Women's World Cup will be a victim of its own success in Germany this summer. And that is not to equate the two things. People died in the attack on the Togan bus and we overuse the word tragic, but that was. Mastercard getting their grubby mitts onto a slice of the action in the women’s game isn't quite the same, but the end of the 2012 Women's World cup will be the end of its innocence. It will coincide with the beginning of the end.
In Canada, in four years’ time, the tournament will be expanded to 24 teams, and as FIFA's coffers swell up like a puffer fish (the poison sacks are behind the gills, careful now, they're 1200 times deadlier than cyanide) with the cash it generates with each passing Cup, it will become unrecognisable from the great three week jaunt we've just had.
Germany 2012 could be Italia ‘90, the men’s tournament which broke through, and finally proved the obscene amounts of money that can be generated from huge (and in many cases they were huge) TV audiences. And, just like Italia ‘90, who would bet against new rules being introduced to get the number of goals up, per game, in its aftermath? After all, as FIFA would have it it's what the punters want to see. Sure, not allowing Kerstin Garefrekes near the six yard box would be a start, but the tactical nous and technical ability in the game have grown so much that teams are cancelling each other out. The use of double holding midfielders has become standard and better players have the patience to believe in their own skill, and not panic and go hell for leather. Japan proved that, not just in Sunday’s final where they came back twice against a team trying to muscle them out of the game, but also in their quarter final when they knocked out Germany.
But then maybe it's a good thing. We can get away from the patronising bullshit which is seemingly irresistible for all of us to indulge in (“Women's football is the winner”, said loveable “Uncle” Sepp Blatter as he bounced Steffi Jones on his knee). Berndt Schröder probably agrees. The Turbine Potsdam manager didn't hold back in his criticisms of Silvia Neid, simply because she's a woman. Simply because she's the bizarro Sue Barker. He couldn't give a toss, the gloves are off. “Why was (her) contract extended before the World Cup? A contract that's now no longer worth the letters on the paper”. He sees the reason for Germany's failure to be entirely down to the boss and her troupe of Frankfurt based favourites.
Then he would say that as Yuki Nagasato comes home to him as the pride of Potsdam. Schröder has been saying for ages to anyone that would listen that she is the hardest working player at the club. She fit in better than any other foreigner has simply because of the dedication she has for the sport. So, Lira Bajramaj is welcome to her transfer to Frankfurt. When she was getting in the papers with her new boyfriend, on the TV getting Jeremy Beadled or in the stands with her fan club after one half decent performance, Nagasato, Bajramaj's former teammate, was getting ready to lift the World Cup.