World Cup Fever in the Land Down Under

It’s truly kicking in – World Cup Fever. The passion that I first had back in June 1986 is back. I was too young to remember the 1982 World Cup sadly. Which is a shame because Northern Ireland won the group, and beat host nation Spain. However by 1986, I was a big Norman Whiteside fan, thanks to my Dad I had a green and white Mexico 86 Northern Ireland scarf (possibly my most treasured possession), and I also had the complete Mexico 86 Panini Sticker Album by the end of July.
Northern Ireland fared well in that World Cup considering the group we were in, the hot conditions (which Billy Hamilton once told me about) and the fact that a lot of the players were coming to the end of their careers. It truly was the end of an era for the Northern Ireland team, we haven’t reached a World Cup since.
But that hasn’t stopped me watching, supporting and loving it. My parents bought me a Holland kit in 1990, and I loved Marco Van Basten. In 2002 I bought a Cameroon kit and supported the African Lions. In 2006 I lived in Bournemouth and bought a mexico kit, just because they played in green. This year I find myself living in a land down under, Australia, so I guess I’ll have to cheer for the Aussies, or as they’re known here, the Socceroos.
It’s 5 am. I can’t sleep. World Cup Fever has kicked in (or is it just that my room mate for the night, Ross, an Australian guy is a heavy snorer?). I start work at 8 am, in 3 hours I will spend my day chopping cauliflower (Intrepid variety) in a field at Loanes Lane, Ambleside/East Devonport, here in Tasmania. I won’t miss the World Cup!
It’s been a busy and random week here. I’ve worked my five days already this week, so I’ll finish around 4 pm today, with two days off to catch the football. I don’t know where I’ll watch the opening ceremony and matches…but it will be in Hobart somewhere.
I have worked in Forth, Lillico and Devonport this week. I have cut cauliflower. I have dug up echinacea. I have sorted out echinacea plants from mud. I am now ready for South Africa v. Mexico tonight, local time at 12 midnight here!

The World Cup is great and I love it, but my dream one day is to see Northern Ireland live at the World Cup. The World Cup is a great tournament, it would be even better with a team to support. Come On Northern Ireland!

Here’s to a great tournament, and here’s my tips:
– South Africa to go out in the first round
– England v Slovenia to be a draw
– Brazil to win their group
– North Korea to lose all three games
– Cameroon to make at least the quarter finals
– Wayne Rooney to be top scorer, but England lose in Quarter Finals
World Cup goals I’ve not seen since the day I was born – 1 (a goal by Allan Neilsen for Denmark in 1998, I missed that goal and it was never re-shown)
Hours I’ve spent watching the World Cup – 10,000 plus
My Favourite Five Northern Ireland World Cup Players – Peter McParland, Gerry Armstrong, Pat Jennings, Billy Hamilton, Norman Whiteside
My Favourite Seven Other World Cup Players – Diego Maradona (Argentina), Zico (Brazil), Roger Milla (Cameroon), Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci (Italy), Jurgen Klinsmann (West Germany and Germany), Michel Platini (France), Hugo Sanchez (Mexico)
Superstar players who never made it at the World Cup – Marco Etcheverry (Bolivia), Marco Van Basten (Holland), George Best (Northern Ireland)
Famous People I Watched the World Cup 2002 Final With – Keith Gillespie, Steve Lomas (in the Northern Whig, Belfast, Northern Ireland)
My earliest World Cup memory –
Watching Norman Whiteside’s free kick for Northern Ireland v Algeria in 1986 with my Dad and Raymond Fitsimmons on a black and white TV in Marlo, Bangor. (this is also my first football memory)
Other early memories –
1986 – Gordon Strachan’s goal v. West Germany and him trying to put his leg over the advertising board
1986 – Hugo Sanchez’s celebrations
1986 – Maradona’s goals v. England
1986 – Eating takeaway food and watching Joel Bats save penalties from Brazil
1986 – Getting out of the bath to watch Colin Clarke’s header v. Spain
1986 – Burrachaga’s winner in the final
1990 – Cameroon 1-0 Argentina
1990 – Schillaci
1990 – Andy Brehme’s penalty winner in the final
Best Player Never To Play in a World Cup – George Best
1982, SPAIN 0-1 NORTHERN IRELAND (Arconada…Armstrong!):
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