Thinking like a fan while covering games is one dicey high-wire act

At times I was more stressed than the players, apart from the Brazilians that is

Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 12:05

It all left me with a huge respect for the writers who manage to produce the instant but elegant analyses that you have been reading elsewhere on these pages during the tournament. I kept watching those around me to see how they do it, knowing when to slip from watching to writing to watching, but could never quite catch the trick of what is one of journalism’s more specialised skills.

That means that though I got to witness in person some of the biggest games of the tournament it was probably the case that at them I was more stressed out than the players themselves (with the possible exception of the Brazilians who went into full meltdown mode against Germany, something I managed to avoid).

Reverting to type

Therefore my World Cup highlight was actually a game I was not at and could revert back to just being a fan. It took place on day two and featured Spain against Holland at the tiny Asteriar off Paulista Avenue watched with friends with all opinions disposable and everyone left free to surf along on the game’s flow without having to worry about what the greater narrative was.

It is winter in São Paulo but random fans packed into a small bar, their necks craning back to look up at a screen up on the wall, drinking beer during business hours induced World Cup nostalgia recalling as it did many a summer watching previous World Cup games in random bars in random countries.

The whole tournament still stretched out ahead and Robin Van Persie’s wonder goal promised that it could be something special. It was a diving header for the ages and hearing the shouts of appreciation from neighbouring bars it felt like the proper start of the tournament itself.

The giddiness provoked by the subsequent Dutch demolition of the world champions only increased the generalised giddiness around our table at the thought that there was another month of this to come. I’d say on the whole the tournament delivered on that promise and covering some of it from the press box has been an interesting challenge and great privilege. But crazy as it seems, once or twice up there I caught myself wishing I was back watching in the Asterix where you could just laugh with friends and toast the fact that even now in middle age World Cups are still magic. Tom Hennigan reports on South American affairs for The Irish Times

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