We (ok, me ... ) here at Road to 2010 have been watching football for a mere 11 years as an avid fan.
Call me a neophyte but it's been long enough to have seen some incredible European finals (my team Valencia in 2000, the '05 classic in Istanbul between Liverpool and AC Milan), some wicked goals (Zidane in 2002, David Bentley's smacker today), some awesome World Cup games (Italy-South Korea in '02) and the ultimate - Spain winning Euro 2008.
Before that, I didn't follow football. Sure, it was here and there, popping up on TV now and again. But here in the USA, we watch American football and baseball, basketball and pro wrestling.
'Soccer' is for the rest of the world ... and let them have it, for all we care.
That changed for a month in 1994 when the USA hosted the biggest tournament in world sports - the World Cup.
Honestly, not that many people in the States cared. Sure, the Italian-Americans in New York and the ... Irish-Americans in New York (I'm in New York, by the way) cared.
But the rest were focused on the impending baseball strike and the upcoming NFL season.
For this and many other reasons, USA '94 is considered one of the worst World Cups in history.
But wait ... today's Guardian Unlimited has an interesting article from writer Rob Smyth saying the '94 Cup wasn't quite as bad as we imagined ...
Maybe he's right. I wouldn't remember. I watched Brazil win a putrid final against Italy in the heat of the Rose Bowl in California and thought, 'What's all the hub bub about?'
Now look at me ... obsessed, in love and totally consumed by 'soccer'. Funny how time makes us think differently about things ...
Here's a small excerpt from the article. Clink the little blue line for more.
Then there were the little details, the one-liners that embellish the plot. In what may turn out to be the longest paragraph ever, we'll attempt to list them. The late kick-off times in England, nirvana for the freaks, geeks and insomniacs; Barry Davies doing his only World Cup final; Martin Dahlin and Andersson proving that direct football could be both thrilling and classy (Sweden were the tournament's top scorers with 15); the haircuts, from Yordan Letchkov legitimising baldness to Alain Sutter's uber-Fabio mane, Tony Meola's Shep-from-Fargo greaseback, the Happy Days side-parting of Mexico's Zague, Alexi Lalas's - well what exactly was that? - and, of course, future Reading keeper's Borislav Mikhailov's syrup; Romania, the World Cup's best loose cannons since ever (and to think it could have been Wales); the Americans' cool but hangover-baiting home kit and their hideous away kit; Rashidi Yekini's throatlump-inducing celebration after scoring Nigeria's first World Cup goal; a dead rubber given significant life by the record-breaking of Roger Milla, the oldest World Cup goalscorer, and Oleg Salenko, the first man to score five goals in one World Cup game; the story of Italy, who went closer to the precipice than James Bond in almost every game but kept surviving; Clive Tyldesley's absurdly extravagant pronunciation of 'Dooooooomidrescu'; Romario slithering magisterially through a non-existent space between two defenders only to eventually have his shot cleared off the line in the semi-final against Sweden; the bravest decision in managerial history, by Arrigo Sacchi, when he took Roberto Baggio off after Gianluca Pagliuca was sent off against Norway; the magnificent certainty of Dunga's spot-kick, the eighth and penultimate in the final, which put Brazil in the lead for the first time and was the first example of the 'captain's penalty'; the glorious meltdown of John Aldridge and Jack Charlton; the brutality and Hitchcockian suddenness of Leonardo's elbow on the USA's Tab Ramos, an incident that has become more unfathomable as we have got to know him subsequently; Greece being so inept that they allowed Argentina to have a four-on-one attack in the second minute of their first-ever World Cup game; Viola's 14 minutes of fame; a group of death so tight that Mexico, Italy, Ireland and Norway finished on the same points and with the same goal difference; the forgotten contribution of Daniele Massaro, the only non-Baggio to score for Italy in the tournament and the other man besides Baresi and Baggio to miss in the final shoot-out; and a performance of such comic ineptitude from the referee Jamal Al Sharif in the Mexico v Bulgaria match that even Trevor Brooking eased himself away from the splinters of the fence to call it: "(An) absolute scandal ... I cannot find words to find the stupidness of that decision".
It wasn't all bad, was it.