When soccer hopes take a dive

By Shepparton News

For want of a better cliche — we have been riding a wild and stormy roller coaster here in lawnmower land this week.

Clouds gather and the sun bursts through — and still the grass fights back with terrifying persistence.

We have been raised up by the dazzling triumph of human ingenuity and courage and then plunged like a rag doll into the cold pit of despair — all within 24 hours.

The rescue of 12 boys from a cave in Thailand was almost enough to steal the limelight from the FIFA World Cup.

Quite why I dragged myself down a dark and stormy corridor at 3.55am to watch England’s semi-final defeat against Croatia — I can’t explain.

The last soccer match I watched was the Socceroos and their heroic defeat at the boots of those filthy coca-chewing Peruvians all that time ago on June 27.

The last soccer match I watched before that, I was 10 years old and Bobby Moore held the golden trophy up from the shoulders of his teammates after squashing the Germans who thought they could blitzkrieg the world again 20 years after their first attempt.

We kicked them back to Berlin — again.

Gosh it felt good — a bit like Biggles Delivers the Goods, or Spitfire pilot Sir Douglas Bader taking on the mighty Wehrmacht war machine with his tin legs and pipe.

In a funny way, I thought there was perhaps a chance that England might win the war all over again.

But of course, this is 2018 not 1966 or 1945 — and now that we have Facebook we can fight our wars with bad grammar and exclamation marks.

As I sat in the early flickering hours and watched England’s glory fade away, I could not help think that sport is a peculiarly tribal thing. I had not felt so British for a long time — but watching those lithe young men dancing around without falling over made me quite proud.

Every other team seemed to be playing for the Sporting Academy of Dramatic Arts Award.

It was also inspiring to see the Neymar challenge become a social media phenomenon — this gave drunks the world over a chance to become a world soccer superstar for a few moments.

Brazil’s Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior got the whole world rolling on the floor in imitation of his fancy leg-clutching diving style.

It also got the whole world laughing — which is a glorious thing.

I took the challenge myself on Wednesday night when Prince Finski brushed past me to get to his favourite spot by the fire.

I rolled around holding my leg, but he looked at me dolefully — just another Friday night Spateburgender frenzy.

I think my journey into the dark night of sports tribalism might be finished for another four years.

Unless of course, drinking sparkling Shiraz and falling over actually becomes a sport.

John Lewis is chief of staff at The News.