Many of us who are familiar with literature or who follow books with pleasure as ants suck sugar or honey endlessly and patiently, cannot but always remember the intellectual honesty of George Orwell, pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair (1903-50), British journalist, novelist and essayist, who wrote 1984, the novel about Orwell’s terrifying prophecy for mankind. This 1949 novel which many of its readers will forever remember, among other concerns, for its “basic language of newspeak in which ‘thought crime is death,’” will always bear in our minds the ideas of a ruthless and pity-less political system such as ours. But this writing is not about George Orwell’s 1984.
The 1984 here is the nineteen eighty-four of the European Nations’ Football Competition which France hosted that year – I mean France that hosted the just concluded version of the 1984 competition which it won.
Would 1984 repeat itself for France?
Let me quote the last paragraph of my Monday, 4 July, 2016 column:
“The European competition is still on. More surprises will come; more frustrations will come; more heart-aches will come. We wait for how the losers will take their losses, and hope to turn them into victories in future. Will France rise to the occasion as host? Or will they follow England and Spain to gnash their teeth?”
When I wrote these words at the time I did I knew that France would not repeat the 1984 feat of the famed Blues. Don’t ask me how I knew. What you must know and learn from my keen insight into the nature of things is that I don’t dismiss, that I don’t ever dismiss whispers and whisperings of my inner self anytime I put my ears near their mouths – usually in my moments of ardent contemplation.
When England and Spain failed when they should not have or ought not to have failed at the time they did in the early part of the competition I saw clearly and neatly further surprises that would come and which actually came – for other teams. For example, the 3 – 1 Wales defeat of fabulous Belgium and Portugal’s progression to the final and eventual first place finish were miraculous surprises. Or the great battle between Germany and Italy that eventually led to the tug-of-war, or better put, tug-of-luck penalty shoot-out that Germany eventually won – if you don’t label this as surprise from the orbit of football miracle then, surely, you don’t know what you thought you knew. And what of the defeat of Germany by France in the second semi-final? Call it by any name that catches your fancy, but the real name of Germany’s loss or of France’s victory is surprise and nothing else.
But that surprise of a victory over Germany did not ultimately give France the crown when it mattered most. Portugal, the most unlikely team to beat France at home, Portugal that had not beaten France in a football match of any kind or colour since 1975 beat France, very surprisingly and very surprisingly, in the final. And France fell and failed on home-soil that gave them victory in 1984 when they won the crown for the very first time before they did so again in the year two thousand (2000).
What went wrong? What went against France? The law of football justice favoured Portugal. DimitriPayet’s unnecessary surprising adventure of a well planned bad tackle within 20 minutes of the game against Cristiano Ronaldo did not go down well with the god of retributive justice. Things were out of joint thereafter for the Blues. Tried as hard as they did 1984 was not going to be and it never was. Moreover, France that already had scored 13 goals prior to the final match against Portugal, needed just a goal more to equal the fourteen goals scored by Michel Platini and company in 1984. In fact, the Blues saw 1984 but they could not get there. They could not get to their 1984 football moon when they beat Spain by two goals to nothing to clinch the European Nations’ Cup for the first time. They beheld 1984 that was not nineteen eighty-four.
They could not rise to the occasion on home-soil. They followed other unexpected losers to gnash their teeth.
As I write this I remember vividly the first semi-final match between France and Portugal in 1984 in the European Nations’ Football Competition which France hosted. I watched that match live on television from my base in Scotland where I was at that time. Jean-Francois Domergue scored first for France before Rui Manuel TrindadeJordao equalized for Portugal. Portugal scored their second goal again through handsome ‘Slim Fit’ Jordao, the black pearl, in the seventy-fourth minute. France equalised through Domergue. The match went on to extra time with the prospect of a penalty shoot-out when Platini scored the winning goal for France from nowhere in the ninety-eight minute. What a match! Would France re-enact that display against Portugal again on Sunday, 11th July, 2016 as this year’s final dragged on to another extra time as we saw in 1984? Would Antoine Griezzmann equalize for France after Eder’s extra time goal for Portugal? Clearly this time Griezzmann could not become France’s Domergue and Platini put together.
In the end, their football parapsychologists failed them as their 1984 parapsychologists did not. Someday I will tell the 1984 story of France’s football parapsychologists here. For now, let’s celebrate the unfailing law of retribution.
Congratulations,Portugal! Congratulations, Cristiano Ronaldo, our next World Football Player of the Year! In two thousand and four you hosted this same competition without winning it. Now you have won it away against your nemesis France. Congratulations!!!