One of the things I remember best from my childhood is the stunning perfection with which a game of soccer with my friends spilled over the confines of the pitch and took control of my entire life. There was nothing but the game and, sometimes, the taste of victory. As an adult, this perfection is no more; during games and in the post-match glow, other things creep into one's consciousness and other tasks take center stage. In short, one's dedication to the game is no longer complete. The taste of victory as a child remains with us, but only as a distant memory.
The World Cup is the only sporting event in which total emersion - as a viewer - resembles that childhood perfection: life, to a certain extent, is put on hold; nothing can stop anyone who loves the sport from watching a quarter-final between Argentina and Germany; and everyone's thoughts are focused no further than the next match.
For one month, once every four years, soccer is again the center of the universe for anyone who ever played for his school, his youth club or even just with friends on the nearest patch of concrete - for anyone who ever dreamed of running toward the crowd with arms aloft.
For the past four years, my life has been lived in careful accordance with a detailed plan: I would work on my novel (including research, writing, editing and so on ) until the start of 2010. I would publish it sometime in March and would be busy promoting it until June 11 - the day the World Cup would kick off. The idea behind the plan was to give myself a much-needed break from soccer. And it worked. I abstained from soccer just as I'd planned - and then completely immersed myself in it for four glorious weeks.
But, like many others, I refused to address the most terrifying question of all: What happens the day after the World Cup ends? The truth is that, from the moment the tournament changed format and there were no longer three games to look forward to every day, I was already in mourning. I looked on in horror as the number of games dwindled from two dozen to four, from four to two and then just one. And now that the whole thing is over, I cannot help but wonder just what the hell we're supposed to do now.