Continuing our Hakuna Matata series, Matthew Campbell puts pen to paper and phalanges to keyboard to reminisce about the 1994 World Cup – an unexpected theme appears to be developing here. Pull up a chair, grab an iced bun and pour yourself a nice tall glass of nostalgia.
The summer of 1994 was a big one: Yemen engaged in a civil war; O.J. Simpson was accused of murder and famously spent a day on the run; the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1940. Yes, these great events and more occurred, but I was oblivious. Because the summer of 1994 was a big one: I was hitting the great age of 7, and come September would be moving to the Junior school; we were moving house; and the 1994 World Cup was being played in the United States of America.
1994 is the first year I really remember football-wise and, having enjoyed the domestic season, the spectre of an international summer tournament was looming. Aided by a wall chart and avidly collecting stickers to fill my Panini album, I was imbued with excitement for the summer of “soccer” ahead. Due to the absence of the England team, all my support was given to the Republic of Ireland (being Irish on my mother’s side).
Saturday 18th June, a fine summer‘s day: Ireland’s first game was against Italy, kicking off in the evening. Crammed into a friend’s living room, about 20 of us eagerly awaited kickoff. There were a few nerves, but no one was actually considering that we could beat Roberto Baggio’s Italy – we had gathered more in celebration of the occasion, infused with hope rather than expectation. But after a rocky start, Ray Houghton did THIS after 11 minutes.
It still makes me smile thinking about it and re-watching it now. The whole house erupted – we were beating Italy and what a goal it had been! Now the nerves kicked in – Ireland were in front, but there was still so much of the game to go. Admittedly I spent the majority of the second half outside with the other kids, each one of us trying to “do a Ray”, but I was too excited to stay indoors. I popped in every few minutes to keep track of events. And after what seemed like an eternity, the game was over: Ray Houghton’s cracker had given Ireland a priceless victory over a strongly favoured Italian side. Ireland’s campaign did not amount to much more (a valiant second round exit against the Netherlands), but the glory of this victory was enough.
Though my fondest and strongest memory of that day, it was not the only match played on the 18th June. I have a distinct memory of sitting on mum and dad’s bed in the afternoon, some stuff in boxes on the floor, watching the hosts against Switzerland. I’m guessing the game sticks in my mind for these two reasons
The effect of this match has quite possibly been more prolonged and extensive than the Ireland-Italy game. USA-Switzerland would not have been an attractive game on paper, but I was nearly seven and just wanted to watch whatever football was on. However, I was rewarded with two great goals, which is why from thence forth, I resolved to watch as many games as possible when a major tournament comes around, rare treat that they are. Even if a fixture might not seem like a glamorous proposition, you never know – magic can happen in the most unlikely of places, spawned by some unlikely Wynalda- esque individuals.
Yes, the summer of 94 was a big one. I moved to a new house, I turned seven (receiving the fantastic Ireland away shirt as a gift) and the World Cup was played in the USA. A highly enjoyable tournament, untarnished by the inevitable disappointment of an acrimonious England exit. A tournament I remember a fair few things about: Diana Ross’ net-buster; that Saudi Arabian bloke running the full length of the pitch; Baggio blazing over the bar; John Aldridge raging in the heat vs. Mexico; Jorge Campos’ ridiculous attire; Norway being the most boring side in the world; Maradona screaming into the camera; and some interesting hair (looking at you, Lalas and Valderrama). I remember a lot: but most of all, I remember Ray.
When Matthew Campbell isn’t writing for The Football Express, he occasionally posts the odd thought or two on twitter at @mattc236. But you will more readily find him, head hung over a pint, considering the disaster that was Jordan Stewart when he was Watford’s left back.
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