Today was a classic football day. The last of the 32 places were confirmed for South Africa 2010, some booked their places by fair means and some by foul, but at least we know who'll be joining the Whitebait (as oppossed to minnows) New Zealanders on the world's biggest stage next June.
I also played some 'twilight football' at Nairn St. Park, kinda like a spiritual home for football for me in Wellington since this is where I started picking up games. Twilight is a 5 a side version of football and on a still warm evening like tonight it is great fun. Plus we won 6-1.
I ended up wearing the sock. It was nice piece of kit and it looked great. When I put it on I noticed the number 4 on the bottom so I guess it belonged to Abdulla Baba Fatadi:
The day began with my 1 year old son, Miro, waking me at 5.30am to play wrestle . The upside of the rude awakening was that listening to the 6.00am news I realised the final World Cup Qualifiers were being played this very morning. I tuned into Justin.tv and watched the last 45 of Algeria V. Egypt, being played on neutral soil in Sudan.
The internet is a stunning invention. At home in my pyjamas in Wellington I watched the angst and ecstasy of a live World Cup play off in Africa, in between showing Miro a slideshow of all the Flicker photos in the world tagged with "Plane". Fun for the whole family!
What struck me about the the Algeria/Egypt tie was that for all FIFA's attempts at homogenising and sanitising the world game, with its clock watching Match Commissoners, Stadium "Look" programmes and referee's directives, football is still a sprawling, polyglottal mess of emotions and cultures. When the referee blew for full time, sending Algeria to the World Cup on the back of a single, brilliant goal, all chaos broke loose in the Sudanese stadium; Smoke, gun-toting soldiers and the Algerian keeper climbing the cross bar in elation. A far cry from the comparitively safe and orderly celebrations in Wellington.
So the full 32 are known. The usual suspects are there- it wouldn't be a World Cup without Brazil, Germany, England, Italy & Netherlands. Spain are there as reigning European Champions and former greats France had to rely on a dastardly mugger's goal against lowly Ireland to qualify- for Shame!
Amongst the gatecrashers are North Korea (!),Greece, Algeria, Slovenia, New Zealand and Honduras. Coincidentally the last time Honduras was in a World Cup was 1982 as well.
There is a certain poetic justice that the last team to qualify was Uruguay. Once feted and proud, winner of 2 FIFA World Cups, Uruguay is now forced to play off against the likes of Costa Rica for their seat on the last plane to footballing mammon.
Here is the full list of countries competing in World Cup 2010, in the order in which the qualified:
- South Africa (Hosts)
- Korea Republic (South Korea)
- Korea DPR (North Korea)
- Cote D'Ivoire
- United States
- New Zealand