Germany 1974 – Total Football
I faced a major dilemma as I turned thirteen: should I support Brazil or Holland in the 1974 World Cup? Brazil were, well, Brazil: my heroes for the past four years, and still footballing magic in action. But Holland had Johann Neeskins and the new ‘world’s best player’, Johan Cruyff. Their ‘total football’ was a flowing experience where every player could play in any position. Plus, I really liked ‘Eye Level’, the theme tune of Dutch TV detective Van Der Valk.
I also started to meet girls. They were strange creatures, with very little interest in football. They did, however, like music and discos and kissing and sometimes doing a bit more than kissing, but not really that much more. We grew up in innocent times; or, at least, I did. Most of our trainee debauchery (drink, cigarettes, sexual fumbling) took place during summers in the parent-free Gaeltacht, where we were theoretically learning the Irish language. During our classes, one of us would write an Irish word or phrase on the back of the roll-over blackboard, and everyone else had to ask questions in Irish and guess what the word or phrase was. A helpful local lad suggested that I try out ‘craiceann a bhualadh’, which means to have sex. I almost got sent home for that. It’s a good job I didn’t try his other suggestion, ‘cíoch, faighin agus péineas’.
Life was now becoming perfect. Johnny Giles had become Ireland manager, Leeds had just walked away with the English League, and glam rock was making a comeback with Gary Glitter recording a new single. Unlike Holland’s ‘total football’, this upbeat future was merely my ‘total fantasy’. It would be sixteen years before Ireland qualified for a major tournament. Leeds would soon be relegated from the English First Division, and the fact that ‘Always Yours’ was to be the final number one of the glam rock era would soon be the least of Gary Glitter’s problems. But one decision that I made later in that year proved more permanent. Having now experienced two live football games, I wanted more. I decided to start supporting a league of Ireland team.