I got up early on the morning of July 12th; about 4.15, much as I had on most mornings for the past month. It was the World Cup Final between Holland and Spain. As a football fanatic I was excited. This was the last of the 64 matches in this year's tournament, held every four years; this year in South Africa. True, the final was not the best of the games, but for me there's excitement in most games, even those played by school kids. And of course I recorded the result of every game played.
My interest in this truly world game - it's played in every country - started in primary school; I played for all my school and college teams. At 10 I spent most Saturday afternoons kicking a ball around in the local park and many hours practising after school. This is where I honed my skills learning to shoot, dribble, tackle, trap and all the goal keeping skills. One day I scored a goal from the halfway line. I had a kick like a mule!
By age 13 I pledged my allegiance to the Arsenal club in north London, in the English Premier League. The team had its origins at the munitions factory in Woolwich, hence the Arsenal, nicknamed the 'Gunners' where both my grandfather and great grandfather had worked, but I didn't discover this till later. So on many a Saturday afternoon I found my way to the ground to stand on the terraces, sometimes shivering in winter, swaying with the crowd. Even today I still check their results first. My major disappointment is that in this era of multi-national player teams there are hardly any English players at Arsenal - most of them are French!
People ask why I get so excited about teams kicking a ball around. It's not for the ridiculous salaries professionals earn. It's the recognition of the incredible levels of skill required to control the ball and when you've played you understand this better. It's also the beauty of the pattern work which good teams exhibit. There's a skilful aesthetic at work which satisfies my soul.