I’ve got World Cup withdrawal symptoms now that it’s all over. The gripping final, in which Spain’s artistic probings only just overcame Holland’s fierce resistance, was a magnificent match – yet was lambasted in the UK media as a filthy disgrace. Sure, there were plenty of fouls and crunching tackles, but rather fewer than you would see in an average club match, and this was the World Cup final: were the Dutch supposed to stand back and admire the Spanish midfield? Any problems were caused by the inept English referee whose stupid and cowardly policy of not booking anyone twice meant that virtually every outfield player got one yellow card before, eventually, a Dutch defender got two. But even that added to the game’s appeal; football would not be the same without controversial decisions by silly men born out of wedlock. It is, after all, a sport with human error built into its fabric, played with our useless feet for heavens sake!
Anyhow, here in Wales next season has already started, so there’s no time for post-tournament depression. The qualifying rounds for the European club competitions are well underway. Last week Llanelli and Port Talbot were eliminated in the Europa Cup (see previous post in this category), Port Talbot 7-1 on aggregate in the club’s first taste of European football and Llanelli 5-4 on aggregate after extra time and with 2 men sent off, but this week Bangor City got a good 1-1 draw in Finland so have a chance in their Europa Cup 2nd leg against Honka Espoo at Wrexham, while in the Champions League The New Saints only lost 1-0 at Dalymount Park in Dublin against Irish champions Bohemian, giving them also a chance to progress next week back in Oswestry. These are actually quite good performances by Wales’ representatives and, it hardly needs saying, they received next to no coverage in what some pie-eyed optimists refer to as the “Welsh media” (i.e: BBC Wales and the Western Mail). As there will certainly be no TV coverage, I’m very tempted to travel up to Croesoswallt next week and saunter down the Burma Road once more to Park Hall, the UK’s oddest football ground. I’m just a bit concerned my venerable Astra won’t appreciate the 200-mile round trip.