My heart is breaking. How is it possible to be happy that one team one won and so sad that the other lost? For sure half of my heart was with Spain, who had never made it this far in the World Cup before, who feature the wonderful Cesc Fabregas, already one of the best midfielders in the world and captain of my beloved Arsenal club. I'm such a huge fan of his and love watching him play. So I knew if they won, it would cement his skill and leadership qualities even further. He set up the winning goal! I was so happy to see Cesc lift the Cup, I am truly thrilled for him and for the Spanish team, who for sure have given hope back to their country as they fight economic woes. It was almost a perfect victory from a team that got stronger as the World Cup progressed, even though Fernando Torres, expected to be one of their key strikers, was fighting an injury and was not himself for most of the tournament. Most teams would crumble if one of their expected leaders and strikers had a bad tourament, but Spain got stronger. It was a very strong performance from them, and worthy of hoisting that gold trophy.
The other half of my heart though was with the Dutch, who had been to the finals two times before, oh so long ago. I have been half in love with this country's team ever since watching Dennis Bergkamp's fabulous volley up and away and over the heads and into the net from the far right side of the pitch. That was a beautiful goal and the exact moment I fell in love with the game, July 1998, the first year the World Cup was shown in full on a channel here in Canada. Going into this match I thought the Netherlands had a slight edge over who I wanted to win. I was wrong. I didn't know how much I wanted the Dutch to win today, until they lost.
I didn't cry until I saw the players still standing on the pitch while the Spanish team celebrated. They didn't want to leave, they didn't want it to be over, and no victory, again. Wesley Sneijder, and Robin Van Persie, who is the main striker for Arsenal also - did I say my heart was in half watching this game? A player from the club I support on either side? And there was Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, a former Arsenal player, who played the tournament of his life, who scored the amazing goal of the tournament in the semi-final that took the Dutch into the finals. When he was taken off the pitch late in the match today I turned to my husband and said, "Oh no, he's been marvelous defending, preventing at least three goals directly, what are they doing?" and sure enough, several minutes later, the winning goal came from the corner of the pitch he had been defending before. Now I know I really wanted The Netherlands to win the World Cup.
Afterwards, my 5 year old came up to me and said his favourite player had been Carlos Puyol, the Spanish defender who was superb in this game, and I agreed with him that he had been one of the outstanding players today.
Best of all, both kids were dancing to the World Cup Soccer song from South Africa:
as we heard the song for the final time. Wavin Flag, by K'Naan. What a wonderful song for a World Cup that was hosted not without problems, but with so much energy and spirit and goodwill that the South Africans, and indeed all of Africa, can be proud of. This was a fun World Cup, despite all the heartbreak and the joy. Maybe because of it. Because I believe that sometimes in defeat, we can find a way to win the next time. And there will be a next time. Not for all the Dutch players - or Spanish players, or any other team in the World Cup. A next time for all the national teams themselves, everywhere the world over, to try again to get to the World Cup, and then win it. Who knows? Maybe Canada will qualify next time around. Because more than anything, the World Cup is about dreams, and making them real.
Congratulations Spain, it took you so long, so many years and attempts, to find a way to win. You did it. Hurray! and Netherlands - thanks for playing so very very well. There were only minute differences between you and Spain. It was a game of inches. And thanks for breaking my half my heart, because now I know I love you.
Goodbye, World Cup 2010. It was fun, it was fabulous, it was surprising, it was often beautiful, and beyond words, it brought the world together for one precious month. It's the beautiful game.
*****Edited to add: Marg over at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader also wrote about the World Cup, here.
Let me know if you did also, Gentle Reader, and I'll add your link.