It’s that time of year, and it’s always the same. The lull that’s supposed to mark the end of the football season – and with it a chance for us all to realise that there are important things happening in the world outside – doesn’t really exist.
1.FC Union have been playing friendlies for weeks already now, and the Women’s World Cup is in full swing. For those who really struggle with reality there’s the Under 17s World Cup. It’s a bit like crossing a motorway. The grass verge looks like an oasis of calm as you recklessly careen towards it, but on arrival it’s just another crappy bit of grass, you kick a ball about for a minute, and then head straight back across into the oncoming traffic again.
I don’t really know why I bother.
The press are to blame. It is they that start the jumping up and down every summer as the gap needs to be filled. What will it be this year? A German female tennis player knocking the conqueror of Serena Williams out of Wimbledon to reach the semi-final? That’s it, she must be the new Steffi Graf. She’s got blonde hair? She must be beautiful too. There is a slightly creepy way in which the tabloids refer to anyone with blonde hair as “the beautiful…”, like the dirty old uncle at a wedding trying to get a look at a breastfeeding woman.
The headline writes itself until she gets mercilessly taken apart, bit by bit by Maria Sharapova and everybody realises that she isn’t the new Steffi Graff at all. Although, this we already knew. Steffi Graf won 22 grand slam titles in her extraordinary career (that number would have been enormously higher too, had Martina Navratilova not been about) so Sabine Lisicki deserves some sympathy. More sympathy than just attaching the word beautiful as a prefix to her name, in the hope that it somehow makes up for the fact that she’s really not as good at tennis as some others. Andy Murray has a similar problem as he immediately becomes “Scottish” again in the wake of his imminent annual departure from the tournament.
Then there was the pantomime of Saturdays “big fight” between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye live from Hamburg. No pun intended, but Klitschko and his monster brother Vitali are huge over here. Really huge, and it was easy to see why. As “The Hayemaker” (crap nickname too) bitched and whined like the heavyweight Holden Caulfield about how he would have won were it not for his toe, and kept everybody waiting for his preposterous entrance whilst he tried to play the pantomime villain, Klitschko spoke warmly in three languages to a worldwide TV audience.
As Haye constantly talked of himself in the first person (although everybody kept doing that all night. It’s the boxers’ self-important and slightly mental disease. Ask “Me, Mike Tyson”, or “Me, ”Big” George Foreman”), Dr. Steelhammer (now that is a great nickname, deserving of the heavyweight champion of the world, “I, Doctor Steelhammer”) was as gracious and calm outside of it as he had been devastating inside the ring. Well, not devastating, because it looked a bit like he didn’t even need to try against the inept Englishman. He mostly looked a bit bored by it all.
This only leaves 150 words (for now) about the Women’s World Cup. Birgit Prinz come in please, your time is up. Inka Grings, however, you can float about on the pond of, er, footballing success for a while yet. Against France Grings took a fantastic game of football by the scruff of the neck, shook it down and then discarded it like a rag doll. She was awesome. As Lira Bajramaj tried to play the fantasista behind her (the fanta-sister) and kept running into trouble as she took on too much in the search for individual glory, Grings was all screaming passion, deadly finishing, and sheer will. It was a joy to behold.