World Cup year. Three words that fill every football supporter with hope. With anticipation. With expectation. With excitement. This year those feelings will be heightened even further with the tournament being hosted in the spiritual home of the beautiful game; Brazil. Regardless of the eventual winners, this tournament is going to be something special and I’m as privileged as I am delighted to say that I’m going to be there.
For two weeks I will be based in the largest City in Brazil, São Paulo, from where I’ll be blogging, filming video diaries, recording audio and sharing photographs as I document the unfolding drama as the Sony Fan Ambassador for England. As a lifelong football fan, it’s nothing short of a dream come true.
If you mention England and the World Cup in the same sentence, it’s likely that the 1966 triumph is going to feature in the conversation sooner rather than later, but it wasn’t until 20 years later in 1986, when as a wide-eyed nine-year-old, I experienced the true magic of a World Cup Finals.
It was 22 June and the eyes of the sporting world were on Mexico City. England were taking on Argentina in the Quarter Finals of the tournament, and whilst the anticipation and excitement had been building well in advance of kick-off, no-one could have imagined the drama that was to unfold. The game will, of course, be remembered for ‘the hand of god’ incident, but the game delivered so much more. Diego Maradona scored an equally unforgettable second (it was to be voted as goal of the century), whilst England roared back into the game with a John Barnes and Chris Waddle inspired second half come-back.
Argentina held out for the win and at the final whistle, I’d felt every emotion possible – excitement and elation, disappointment and despair, hope and ultimately heartache. As a nine-year-old, I was distraught that England were heading home but even as a youngster on the verge of tears, I knew that I had been privy to something special.
Those 90 minutes taught me all I need to know about the World Cup. It’s a tournament that can deliver feelings like no other. I can’t wait to be a part of it.