Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The World Cup and Me: 1990

My memories from World Cup 1990 are even more limited than 1986 but for a very different reason: I was in Basic Training at Fort Dix, NJ during the tournament. I've always regretted missing the 1990 tournament for several reasons. For one thing, it was the first time since 1950 that the US actually qualified. Also, the tournament was being held in Italy which, if you recall from the introduction, was the magical land of soccer in my mind. I'd just finished my freshman year of college and though I didn't play on the University team, I did spend the year playing intramurals and it felt great to be back playing the sport I loved so much. We had a lot of players from other countries at my school and I became even more interested in the game outside my own country.

I left for boot camp in late May and the tournament started in early June so I missed the entire thing. My mother used to send me newspaper clippings of some of the matches and results which were like gold to me. We had a guy in my company who played ball at the University of Maryland and whenever one of us would get articles sent us, we would sit on the floor and pour over the results. Not only was it great to get World Cup news but it also provided a welcome respite from the day to day stress of boot camp. The thing I most remember was reading the clipping of Cameroon's shocking upset of defending champion Argentina. I'd never even HEARD of Cameroon before that. Such is the power of the World Cup. I also remember getting a clipping of the US getting thrashed by Czechoslovakia 5-1 and thinking "Well, at least they're IN the World Cup". Then a week or so later I received a clipping of the US-Italy match. The US had lost 1-0 to powerful Italy and the article was about how there was hope in the US that we were getting better because hey, they had only lost to Italy 1-0! How quickly the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Czechs was forgotten...

Germany ended up winning that year and suddenly they were on top of the soccer world again. Although I didn't get to watch any of it, I read as much as I could about World Cup 1990 and, as I would find out eventually, there were several things about that tournament that would affect me in the years to come (as you will see)...

Up Next: 1994

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