The World Cup has not been without its thrills, spills and catastrophic knockouts. Basically, everything you would expect. But those long, mundane and boring days in between matches have been, well, long, mundane and boring.
It has been a long month, one where I have probably lost friends along the way due to my lack of social life. My mother has been consistently urging me to get a life, go outside and enjoy the sun, not realising that my ginger skin tone burns to a crisp even if I sit by our window. But that’s the beauty of the World Cup, it has given me plenty of time to reflect. Every nation that played, I had a story about them. I don’t know why, maybe it just shows how much of a cultured, well-travelled swine I am.
The story that generated the most oohs and aahs was an infamous Euro 2012 scandal. Not the one where Trapattoni refused to shift from 4-4-2 and stop some of the carnage. This story is about lies, deceit, betrayal.
You see, in 2012 I had to go to the hospital to fix an old back issue. I want to say something cool like “oh yeah just a troublesome old thing from my football days”, but I can assure you it’s not an interesting problem. Then the worst thing possible occurred – my appointment was scheduled for June, the same month my brothers and I had planned to hit Poland and Ukraine for the Euros.
Now, I know you are reading this thinking my brothers would be sound and maybe cancel the trip or perhaps conceal the fact they had planned to carry on regardless. I wasn't like Julius Caesar, where the act of betrayal was sprung upon me by surprise, but that still did not stop the metaphorical pain from the stabbing I had endured.
Bad enough a surgeon was cutting me from head to toe, and I had to be laid up for at least a month where I couldn’t move in a heatwave, but receiving pictures of my brothers #OnTour was another knife in my open back. Sadly, my surgeon never found that knife in my back from my brothers.
That story is tragic enough, but following Ireland’s dramatic collapse at the Euros, one half of the conniving duo decided it was time to face his 16-year-old sister laid up in Crumlin. I have no idea if my mother gave him a warning about the fact I was physically convalescing, but mentally their betrayal had set me back in my recovery. So, in walked my brother, like any sad and sorry state of a human after they have had the times of their lives abroad. My brother stank of fun, memories and stories whereas I reeked of hospital, recovery and god knows what else.
“Well, tell me how great it was and how it was the best experience ever?”
My brother did not hold back from how great his Eastern Europe adventures were. In fact, for a man who claimed to have drank every pub in Gdansk dry, he remembered every single moment from their unforgettable tour.Visiting hours finished and my brother carried on, still declaring how great his life was.
Eventually I got my own back. I abandoned my brother on a trip to Barcelona and sent back the only picture that could send him over the edge – meeting Messi. After that I dropped him again for an Ireland v Germany game, where I met the German team because their security guard took a liking to me. All I did was tell him his picture with Rihanna was cool.
Joanne 2 - Evil Brothers 1.
But, on a serious note, the World Cup has made me remember all the beautiful countries that I have visited that left an imprint on me forever. In Iceland, where I was taken on a helicopter tour, and the helicopter driver, a mix between Tom Cruise and Indiana Jones, carried me in a pushchair where Tom Cruise flew through in Oblivion. Somewhere in the background, my dad had fallen in the snow and cut his hand, causing my mother to accuse him of ruining the snow.
Or my other favourite story of my trip to South Africa, where I bumped into a tour from Nigeria while on my way to breakfast. For the whole day they followed me, asking me for a picture and making comments which I assumed were concerning my lack of limbs. I asked a waitress in the hotel, and one Nigerian man replied that my lack of limbs was not an issue, they have seen that before, but they never saw someone with blonde hair and blue eyes.
The World Cup brings together all of these fantastic cultures and breaks down barriers that were there beforehand. If you’re like my brothers and lucky enough to attend, the joy and memories created lasted a lifetime.
The World Cup has a way of bringing people together, bonded by a common goal of goals, family, friendships, and patriotism that is unique to the football tournament.
So, while I have semi-forgiven my brothers for the Brutus-like act of betrayal, secretly I am jealous but happy that they, along with many more at this World Cup, have stories to share for generations to come.