These [vegetables] practically [steam] themselves.

You’ll never [shop at the American Eagle] in this town again.

We’ll always have [toddlers around].

When you [can safely drive home at 11 p.m. on a Friday], the terrorists have already won.

There’s no good way to tell you [about minivans].

Fabian’s Note — Technical Difficulties Update: due to the fact that this column was inaccessible for most of the last 168 hours, and a deluge of mail was received at Castle Dust remarking on that fact, Mr. Dust has decided to pull the previous column early and repeat it in this week’s slot. That way, the majority of regular readers who were denied their weekly Dust fix can now enjoy the original column unmolested by spinning bufferers and Latvian Viagra ads. Also, since Mr. Dust was shut out of the mainframe, he was unable to write anything new, so there wasn’t much choice. Also, we’re all drunk.

However: if you were one of the few who read this before, read it again! It has additional bonus material, PLUS a hidden treat! There will be prizes!

 

Money: it’s not the Mark anymore, obviously, but the Euro. It comes with a slew of coins, of which I have countless every evening, because I’m not used to coins anymore. Having lived in the States for fifteen years, I’m also not used to the different-color-and-size bills, which my memory doesn’t accept as German. The other Germans do however, and once called the Euro the Teuro (the Expensivo). They don’t use that nickname anymore. Starbucks Latte starts at $4.50.

Toilets: Few of the truly Teutonic bowls remain, but I happen to have rented one with my apartment. New bowls don’t swirl water the American way but push it, dump it. But they do look pretty much the same. Old bowls however have a step, a throne, on which things rest until the flush. “Good for taking samples,” a friend remarked.

Sports: If you don’t like soccer, you’re out of luck. There’s a bit of tennis in the news, a bit of Formula One (see above; hey, a German is the reigning champion), and the rest is soccer. Oh, there is also handball (soccer with the hands). Every other sport in any other country is dutifully ignored to talk some more about the dismissal of the Bayern Munich coach and the re-hiring of one of his predecessors. I’d rather watch Clippers games.

Cars: I thought I loved Audis. After five weeks in Germany I’m looking forward to seeing Crown Vics. Imagine a school full of Little Princes.

Speech: There’s a strange wordy meekness in colloquial, and now even written, German. What in English would be a hearty “Let’s do it,” becomes a “Ja, das könnten wir schon auch noch mal machen.” It expresses weariness and the not-so-secret conviction that things will not be possible. It’s the same pattern used for complaints about life and work.

Recently, while scouring the sports pages for reading material (I’m not a soccer fan), I came across this sentence, describing the problems Ferrari is having with its Formula One team, its small steps of progress, and the fans’ impatience: “Für einen so vorsichtigen Aufwärtstrend wie Ferrari ihn mit dem Brasilianer Felipe Massa auf Platz fünf und dem Spanier Fernando Alonso auf Rang sechs in Malaysia andeuteten, findet das in größeren Kategorien tickende Temperament Italiens tatsächlich keine wirkliche Nuance.”

Translated, the sentence means, “Ferrari fans were not impressed.”

Heating: It’s hot and dry in German houses, hotels, galleries, and apartments. In the 80s and 90s, old apartments still had large, tiled coal ovens to heat the rooms. They kept rents affordable and every surface dusty-red. If you came home in irregular intervals, you found your home icy-cold and it took two hours for the oven to heat up again. Windows were crappy too, and my flowers always had fresh air, even after I had sealed the frames and cracks for the winter.

Nowadays, central heat rules even the German capital, and only the staircases remain as dark and damp as ever, emanating the dank smell of Protestant churches. Inside it’s hot and dry. In bathrooms, the heaters are ladder-shaped, great for drying towels, socks, etc. The windows are new and airtight. When I wake up in the small apartment in the geriatric district of Steglitz I feel as though I’m having a nosebleed. My tongue can only be removed from wherever it’s stuck with force. I hang wet laundry everywhere. It dries in mere hours.

Complaints: Not even Germans like Germany. Many of the people I talked to have plans on leaving, dreams of leaving (I heard those same comments in Buffalo, NY. Most of the ones who left ended up in North Carolina).

Germans love to complain about life and their country. It seems in bad taste not to take life hard. I fit right in. It’s as though complaining is a way of showing that you’re in on the joke, even though and because you have no idea what that joke might be. However, they do seem certain that there is one. If you don’t complain you’re either an arrogant asshole, or you are just showing how superficial and gullible you are. Saying you’re enjoying yourself is as bad as admitting that you have three nipples or a second belly button.

Berlin: it’s hard to embrace a city that was 70 percent destroyed and rebuilt on a smaller, uglier scale after World War II. What remains of pre-war Berlin is quite beautiful, yet it feels impossible to fully embrace it. You might find a particular building beyond the park fascinating, even beguiling, until you find out it housed the Nazi court that sent political dissidents to their death. The feeling is close to finding out your beloved grandfather was a war criminal. Here, your whole family turns out to have been war criminals. They’re your family. You love them, especially in the spring, which is always fragile and seduces young couples in parks and by the canals. You love them. They are war criminals. You love them?

Language: It’s difficult for me to speak German, it won’t fit into my mouth correctly. People comment on my accent. Then there are sudden bursts of language, old channels opening and releasing idioms, sayings, and TV jingles I haven’t heard or used in fifteen years. These come with discomfort, as though I’ve sworn or eaten a bag of candy.

I love to think that I love Berlin, but there comes a moment when what your eyes find again is not what you remembered. And when I put the old images on top of the new they won’t fit anymore. It’s a delicious moment, full of hidden longings. I’m trying to see how my lover has grown. But maybe the gap between old and new has widened too much, my mind refuses to fall in love again. Maybe I’m in love with my memories of fragile and seductive springs. Maybe that’s what Berlin has become for me — a place without a present.

I do have coffee a lot in Berlin now, since I’m in Germany for several weeks and have chosen the old and new capital as my base camp.

I lived here for eleven years, fifteen years back. That might explain why I can’t see to get a grip on the city. There are places I don’t recognize anymore, renovated, restored, re-done, over-developed. Those are the easiest, since they are merely new. But there are also tons of places that haven’t changed one bit. Not at all. Or, to be more precise, the places haven’t changed, and according to the circular laws of fashion, the outfits of the people who inhabit these places (take, for example Kottbusser Tor, a major hub in the still somewhat cool district of Kreuzberg, which looks as ratty and lost and crowded as ever) have reverted to 80s Berlin chic – black, short jackets, black boots, asymmetrical and bleached or dyed hair. Nothing looks new or clean. It’s enough to creep me out. I have aged, whereas Berlin has remained the same. None of my life has happened. It can’t have. I’m Pamela Ewing’s dream of Bobby.

Germany produces what are arguably the best cars in the world. Germany also makes some of the best kitchen appliances money can buy. You’d expect flying Minis or VW Polos by now, and they might come soon, but free wifi is another matter. Forget free wifi, internet connections are dreadful in general.

In the free world coffee shops are there to provide wifi and barely drinkable java. Not here. And even if you get wifi, it’s bound to break down at regular intervals, about every 15 minutes or so. I’m drinking a lot of Starbucks for that reason, because they are “experimenting” with free wifi. It’s slow. It’s freaking excruciatingly slow. Do you remember dial-up?

Germany also brought you the tear-free onion-hacker. Try to buy one, though. Half the businesses don’t accept credit cards. Instead they use EC-cards, Euro-Cheque cards. Kinda like debit cards but the money is always guaranteed, even in case of over-drafting. But of course that EC business excludes foreigners, American or otherwise. And I can’t shake the feeling Berliners like it that way.

Why? Well, when I arrived I tried to buy a Handy (the, umh, German term for a cell phone). Turns out, pre-paid phones need to be registered to an owner, and in order to become such an owner, you need to have a Personalausweis, the German ID card. I pulled my passport, it’s truly German, but that wouldn’t do. ID card or bust. With pride, the young sales clerk said, that this system ensured that terrorists could not make anonymous, unregistered calls, the way they can in America. He was beaming. I was not. But our faces were both red. My friend bailed me out. I do have a handy now, and if I should use it for stalking people (the clerk was also happy to prevent that), or try terrorizing Germany, my friend will get busted. I tried to pay with credit card.

Germans love soccer and the newspapers’ sports pages are devoted to soccer alone. Well, okay, there’s ice-hockey (yes, they call it that), handball (another sport without an American future), and tennis (but only if a German player defeated a much better foreign player. The devotion to soccer extends to the fitness club I joined here on a very expensively temporary basis, but where they do serve a mean coffee. The urinals sport small goals (yes, down there), with tiny soccer balls dangling from the goal post. You aim, and, if it’s strong enough, “Goaaaal.” If you drink a lot of coffee, as I do these days, you score a lot.

When I was a little kid, I saw no good reason to go outside.

There are often plenty of reasons to stay indoors in Minnesota, but even during those perfect summer days that once made hordes of naïve and hardy Scandinavians consider the Upper Midwest an ideal place for permanent settlement, I remained in my room. My own mom, the granddaughter of a Swede and a Norwegian, would lean her stout body into my doorway and ask out of amazement, “Why don’t you want to go outside? It’s PERFECT out!”

It wasn’t just that the suffering and hard work of my forebears enabled a world of air-conditioned comfort I was unwilling to leave. Nor was it a growing identification with the Midwestern idea that the ability to withstand misery is ennobling – an ethos that explains how millions of people tolerate entities as consistently heartbreaking and stupid as the Chicago Cubs or a climate that can fluctuate between tornadoes and blizzards in under a month. No, I would have gladly sought fellowship in yet another shared misery, had anyone shared mine.

To me, a scrawny, twerpy little dweeb, outside was an unlucky assemblage of dull woe; a salad bar of reckless and pointless adversaries.

Outside, big kids drove around on bikes with mag wheels, swinging plastic baseball bats at smaller children. Scott Burt, the kid who got kicked out of fourth grade for pulling a knife on the teacher, roamed around looking for things to steal. There was a batshit-crazy fifth-grade girl who still carried the liner notes to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” everywhere she went and always tried to force boys and girls to kiss each other.

Outside there was also as much pathos as there were things to fear. There was a kid named Keith Stash, who was allowed to play in the middle of the street, and he’d be out there well past 9:00 PM, almost getting hit by passing cars as the sun and his parents gave up on him. The sight of his strange, un-abetted freedom was not enticing; it was sad.

There were also that pair of sisters who at a young age were obsessed with male genitalia. All of the male dolls they owned were stripped nude. Every time I saw them they would try to force me to take my pants and underwear off. They had no brothers and their dad wasn’t around, but because I studiously avoided them I can’t glean many insights into the realm of their preoccupation. They were outside too.

Outside is where one neighbor found a stash of male porn (completely unrelated to the aforementioned sisters, as it turned out) and where another neighbor found a stash of beer. Outside is where hit-and-run drivers killed a beautiful hunting dog named Malley and a friendly collie named Winston.

Outside was OK if it was the swingset in the fenced-in backyard or the tight front yard, shielded from the street by rose bushes, a cluster of thorns away from the unregulated freak kingdom that was my neighborhood, as I perceived it.

Of course, compared to a lot of places, where I grew up was downright idyllic. My neighborhood obviously wasn’t tough, it was just ugly sometimes, and like many ugly places, we were expected to respond to unwelcome compromises of social decency with brute force. The older kids, and many adults, expected boys to be eye-for-an-eye. Kid on a bike hit you with a bat? Stick a broom handle in his spokes! Scott Burt stole one of your Matchbox trucks? Kick his ass!

And people did kick Scott Burt’s ass regularly, with no complaint from his parents, who apparently knew the score. Ass-kicking, however, wasn’t my cup of meat either, so I didn’t fit in with the enforcers any more than the bullies. As someone who did not prefer to hit, to get hit, or hit back, I was treated like a vegan at a Sturgis pig roast.

So, I was much happier inside, filling a yellow spiral notebook with fanciful election results from the U.S. Presidential elections between 1789 and 1864. I titled this notebook “Papers From The Executive Branch.”

When I wasn’t doing that, I was probably playing with my Star Wars guys, pretending they were going to restaurants. “Hello,” I’d have Greedo the maitre d’ say to Lando the customer, “You can’t be seated until your entire party has arrived.”

“You need to get out of the house,” my mom said.

She and my dad spoke in the kitchen. They heard and understood my apprehensions about Scott Burt and all of the pervy dog-murdering Michael Jackson fans in the street at 9 pm, but were alarmed at my insular nature and lack of physical activity. For two parents in the ex-urb Middle West, they arrived at the most logical conclusion. They signed me up for soccer.

To that point, my awareness of my hometown’s Youth Athletic Association was that it sent older, more athletic kids to our door a few times year to sell us arcane local concoctions like Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls. To me, the idea of participating in a door-to-door fundraiser was as mortifying as soccer. There was nothing about this entire experience that would be “fun.” My parents, however, were unyielding. I was going outside.

Every team in the Youth Athletic Association had a color and this year, my particular group of third-grade boys were given the black shirts. This was enough to make us “the cool team,” and for no fault of my own, I was envied as a soccer player before I even attended a practice.

That was the last time in my life anyone looked at me on a pitch, field, diamond, course, rink, or sandlot and determined I was enviable. The coach assigned me to play defense, and about thirty seconds into our first “scrimmage” (where the team practiced against itself in a stripped-down mock game) any lingering envies were permanently disabused.

Soccer fields were kind of peaceful. I liked playing defense because I could just stand there and let my mind wander, and if the ball came near me, I would just kick it to someone else or get out of the way. In the meantime, I just stared off into space and thought about things I’d rather be doing.

My mom asked me how I liked soccer, and I said I thought it was okay, except for when the ball came near me. The smell of grass and the fresh air were a tonic for the imagination but the whistles and shouting broke my concentration sometimes.

Next year I was on a much worse team, less desirable for our maroon shirts and general lack of athletic competence. As such, more of was expected of me; I was promoted to wingman, an offensive position, despite showing a marked aversion to ball-handling, passing, scoring, drive or focus during my soccer career.

There were some boys on the team who seemed to be trying much harder than me, and were doing as least as bad. The scrimmages we had did not prepare us for games. We would get walloped by scores of 7-0 and 8-1. “I’m telling my team to play their best,” I remember my coach saying. “The problem is, most of them are.”

I actually made some shots on net, but no goals. For someone who had never crossed midfield in his life, this was awesome and terrifying and surreal, like someone from the Cook Islands seeing his first ice rink one year and playing in the NHL the next. It made me a better player, I suppose, being forced to actually play all the time.

I even got a mild concussion once while attempting a header, which for me was sort of a red badge of chutzpah. I remember being knocked on my ass, staring at shapes that looked like misty neon exploding grapefruit, and the coach, who was typically of the “rub some dirt on it and get back out there” school of sports medicine, let me sit out for the rest of the game.

I found that having a sports injury gained me some measure of respect. I was also told that I’d somehow expended some degree of effort and skill on the play that sidelined me. I was amazed.

Maybe this is where the story is supposed to get treacly, and where I’m supposed to tap into a hidden reservoir of inner competence and lead my scrappy underdog team to the all-city finals. This did not happen. I did realize that enthusiasm is a decent substitute for a total lack of natural talent, and that my positive attributes (speed, quickness) in combination with the negatives (dreamy detachment, total lack of coordination) could at least be a pain in the ass to the opposing team. I could be a spoiler; I could get in the way.

By ninth grade, I was done with the charade. I had fulfilled my parents’ objectives—I had gone outside for a change—and even though I didn’t score one goal in five years of soccer, I had exceeded my own expectations. I gave up sanctioned athletic competition for what I assumed was the rest of my life. A decade later in Italy, I would be proved wrong, with a clean slate and slightly different results.

For that time, however, perhaps I had convinced the souls of my immigrant great-grandparents that they weren’t entirely wrong in trying to make Minnesota a better place for their children, and that their hard work wouldn’t be wasted in an air-conditioned bedroom. Indeed, on one of those few Midwestern days that are actually enjoyable, a nerdy little descendant of theirs who’d never have survived their Oregon Trail-style privations can go outside, past the thieves and perverts and thugs on mag wheels, get awoken from another daydream by a salvo of authorized aggression, and maybe even get a concussion amidst flowering volleys of polite encouragement.

With my face in the dirt, whistles screaming, a breeze washing through the torn grass of someone else’s perfect day, and my head filling with buttery stars, outside, at last, would be OK.

This is a continuation of a series of personal observations about my native country on its golden jubilee. For items 1-16, please see part 1. For items 17-32, see part 2. In this final installment I include a few observations I’ve culled from my father’s memoir of his life in Nigeria and abroad “Seeing the World in Black & White.” (SWBW) (AWP, 2006)¹

33. Modern Nigerian literature, ever vibrant, is certainly on the up. Young as it is Nigeria has already had an early generation of great writers, household names such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, not to mention the likes of Cyprian Ekwensi, Amos Tutuola, Christopher Okigbo, Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, and even the prolific pulp novelist Dan Fulani. It’s almost too much to ask for more, but as it happens, we have much, much more with new generations exploding on to the scene, including poets Chris Abani, Uche Nduka, Olu Oguibe and lesser known contemporaries such as Chinweizu. But the real earthquake manifests in novel form, with the emergence of the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Oyeyemi, Sefi Atta, and Nnedi Okorafor. I can’t pass without a word for the recently deceased poet and playwright Esiaba Irobi. One of the neat aspects of these 21st century blossoms is that so many of them are young women.

Spam, Annotated

By Jeremy Resnick

Humor

“I got some cleats,” she said. “Yes!” Fred reached into the coffer and pulled out a team up free of underhanded size 21 Adidas cleats, ending the kind’s crave and frustrating moreover to find a two of a description of Chrsitian Louboutin shoes that could robust the women oversized feet. “Oh, this is vitriolic,” Fred said as sje held the shoes in façade of him. “I like this. I can’t meanwhile to nag them.” She smiled again as she tried on the shoes and as members of the coaching combine took photos.

*

No doubt whole dissertations will be written about this passage, the careers of spam scholars forged on the anvil of its impenetrability. It is the new art, in that it is the old art made new, the scene expanding and contracting like a funhouse mirror, and then shattering and putting itself back together like a video of the shattering of a funhouse mirror played forward and backward:

“I got some cleats,” she said. “Yes!” Fred reached into the coffer and pulled out a team up free of underhanded size 21 Adidas cleats, ending the kind’s crave and frustrating moreover to find a two of a description of Chrsitian Louboutin shoes that could robust the women oversized feet.

From the triumphant first line to Fred’s pulling from the shoe coffer these devious Bob-Lanier-sized shoes, we are thrown right into the action. (Or has Fred pulled not shoes, but a whole soccer team, none of whom wears the sinister cleats? Is Fred a god? The Chrsitian God? For sanity’s sake, let’s assume he pulls out the shoes.) The wealthy, generous Fred gives these shoes to “the kind.” But what sort of creature is “the kind”? Are “she” and the “the kind” the same entity? The best, largest-footed soccer player ever to come out of Humboldt County? It seems so. (Unless the shoes are “the kind,” and they are animated shoes capable of “craving.” But no, I don’t think so.)

We have no time to dwell on these questions, because in the same breath “the kind” is both sated and foiled in a word maze in which one suspects a pair or two pairs of shoes (or descriptions of shoes) either do or do not work.

Or both. Or all! As with Duchamp’s descending Nude, Pynchon’s Lot 49, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, quantum theory, and Hermaphroditism, in this spam there is yes and there is also no. These two-of-a-description shoes both fit and don’t fit.

Then, of course, the “already women oversized feet” could get robusted. (Robust: to enhance a body part’s size, as in “Oh, she definitely robusted those bazombas…. Definitely.”)

 Oh, this is vitriolic,” Fred said as sje held the shoes in façade of him.

In addition to playing with parallel universes of yes and no, the author plays with time. Only after we get Fred’s reaction do we find out what he’s reacting to. What he finds vitriolic is the sudden presence of his rival sje, the Norwegian architect/e.e. cummings disciple. sje immediately shows “the kind” what she can do with those shoes. Façade, anyone?

 “I like this. I can’t meanwhile to nag them.”

She appears to be pleased with sje. Being a truly negative “kind” though, she can’t think to say anything nicer than that she can’t “nag” them. (What? Are the shoes in fact animated? And if she didn’t like them, would it really be their fault? I mean, would they deserve to be nagged?) But she covers up her negativity for the cameras:

She smiled again as she tried on the shoes and as members of the coaching combine took photos.

And doesn’t that just encapsulate our entire age right there? Rich Fred, who put all his self-worth into his shoe coffer, is left empty-handed, a soul pauper. Even sje, the “artist,” is abandoned, left holding the enormous shoes in front of him like the house painter’s ladder-holder he used to be. Meanwhile, a whole combine of coaches fresh from talent-threshing has expanded their exploitation of athletes to include the photographing of them, thus stealing work from the struggling paparazzi, who may be forced to go back to their fast-food service jobs.

What of “the kind”? She hardens her heart and swallows her unhappiness so she can present a grinning face to the masses and keep her sponsors.

It’s a sad old story, but one has to admire the way it’s told.

 

As we all know, everyone in Europe loves football. However, during the World Cup everyone in America has been more interested in where James LeBron (the brother of Duran Duran frontman Simon) is going to be hitting home runs next year, and as such, they missed most of the tournament.

For those of you in that crowd, here’s a team-by-team look at the nineteenth World Cup, so that if you bump into any weird European types you’ll be able to talk to them…


ALGERIA

Algeria contributed very little to this World Cup. They failed to score a single goal, got voted the ugliest team at the tournament by the website beautifulpeople.com, and lost to Slovenia and the USA.

However, they did contribute something: the most boring game of football ever played. In their Group C match against England they managed a 0-0 draw notable for its complete lack of incident— the game was so devoid of action that a bird spent a period of the game perched peacefully on top of Algeria’s goal.


ARGENTINA

What the Argentines brought to the World Cup was sheer comedy value and one of the most surprising comebacks in football history.

In 1986 Diego Maradona was a World Cup winner and had eclipsed Pele as the greatest player of all time. Later on he became a cocaine addict… and then he became really fat… and in 2006 he almost died of a heart condition. For some reason he was then given the job of managing Argentina.

Argentina did well, but Maradona was the star of their World Cup— watch his eyes, and never, ever question his sexuality


AUSTRALIA

They won their last game, apparently.


BRAZIL

Brazil were pretty disappointing; they abandoned their traditional attacking style for something more defensive. They only got as far as the quarter finals and most of their goals were pretty unspectacular. The only really highlight of their World Cup was the goal scored by Maicon in their opening game against North Korea.


CAMEROON

In 1990 Cameroon were the first ever African side to reach the quarterfinals. In 2010 they were the first team to be knocked out. There were literally no highlights— three defeats and only two goals.


CHILE

Somehow, despite winning two games, Chile didn’t really leave much of an impression. They got to the second round, but then lost to Brazil.


DENMARK

Denmark won one game— against Cameroon. They lost to both the Netherlands and Japan. This means their highlight is either beating Cameroon or the hilarious own goal they conceded against the Netherlands…


ENGLAND

It was all pretty bad for the English— beginning with an embarrassing 1-1 defeat to the USA and ending in an actual defeat to the Germans.


FRANCE

France came to the tournament hated by everyone because they cheated to get to the World Cup. They were then rocked by the revelation that star player Frank Ribery had slept with a prostitute— not just any old prostitute, but an underage prostitute.

In a move guaranteed to amplify his robust authority, the manager, Raymond Domenech, announced he was quitting after the World Cup.  He then sent Nicolas Anelka home following an argument, and the rest of the team refused to train. In the last game, several players, including the captain, refused to play.

Every moment of the French World Cup was a highlight.


GERMANY

Germany were pretty much the only side to play with any real attacking flair. They were a joy to watch, and introduced many exciting players onto the world stage— players such as Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller.

There were many highlights for the Germans, and they ultimately won the third-place playoff against Uruguay.  They notched up impressive wins over Argentina, England and Australia, scoring four goals in each. Their best performance was against Maradona’s Argentina, although the victory against England was perhaps the most resounding and most satisfying.


GHANA

Ghana’s defining moment was when they became the first African nation to reach the World Cup semifinals. Well, that should have been their defining moment, were it not for the disgraceful actions of Luis Suarez, who stopped the ball going in with his hands.

Against Uruguay Ghana were the last African team in the tournament and had the whole of Africa—and most of the world— behind them. They were very, very impressive; they beat a good USA side and really, really should have beaten Uruguay.

That should have been their highlight, but I’m giving it to the victory over the USA instead— a glorious achievement and a joyous moment for Africa.


GREECE

Greece were unremarkable— other than beating Nigeria, 2-1, they were essentially making up the numbers.


HONDURAS

Their real highlight was just making it to the tournament proper. Only a few of their players are professionals, and it showed.


ITALY

For only the second time in history the reigning champions failed to get past the group stage. They didn’t really deserve to win the World Cup in 2006 and they were shockingly bad in South Africa. They fucked over almost every single person who’d bet on the World Cup by failing to beat New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia.


IVORY COAST

The Ivory Coast had a disappointing tournament. Their only real highlight was their victory over North Korea—or, if you’re reading this in North Korea, their humiliating defeat to the glorious footballing nation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


JAPAN

They got to the second round, so I imagine they probably won at least one game…


MEXICO

Mexico were quite good. They also had strikers with rhyming names in Franco and Blanco. They beat France, ruined the opening game for the host nation and reached the second round.

However, the true highlight of their World Cup was the revelation that their thirty-eight year old striker, Blanco, was going out with the eighteen year old Miss Mexico. Ay carumba.


NETHERLANDS

The Dutch won every game in qualifying, in their group, and every game up until the final itself.

None of this matters; the 2010 Dutch team will forever be remembered for karate-kicking a Spanish player and pretty much getting away with it. In 1974 the Netherlands invented ‘total football’ which was a beautiful attacking style. They got to two successive World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978. They lost both, and presumably it was because of this that they decided to play like Leyton Orient on a waterlogged Wednesday night league game against Barnsley.


NEW ZEALAND

Like Honduras, many of New Zealand’s players were semi-professional. One of their players actually had to ask for time off from the bank where he worked in order to play. I love the thought of him telling his manager that he needed to go to South Africa for ‘anytime between two to four weeks. It probably won’t be four weeks…’

New Zealand were glorious. They drew with Paraguay, Italy and Slovakia. They failed to make it out of the group, but they were the only team to go unbeaten at the World Cup.

Although their result against Italy is probably the most impressive, I think their highlight was the draw with Slovakia due to the late and dramatic manner in which they got the result.


NIGERIA

It didn’t matter what Nigeria did in this World Cup, they were always going to  be remembered for this incredible display of incompetence…

It didn’t get much better for them either…


NORTH KOREA

They lost all of their games—they lost to Portugal 7-0. However, they did score against Brazil—they lost, but they scored against bloody Brazil! Kim Jong-Il was so impressed he decided not to kill any of the players or their families. Seriously.


PARAGUAY

The fact that they got to the quarterfinals says more about the quality of this tournament than two thousand lighthearted, humorous words ever could. Succeeding through a couple of draws, a narrow win and a shootout victory after a goal-free 120 minutes, they finally got knocked out by Spain.

Their highlight? Not letting their astounding mediocrity get in the way of their attempt to ruin the World Cup for everyone else.


PORTUGAL

It didn’t get much better than the 7-0 win over North Korea. In fact that was the only game they actually won or scored in. They drew both of their other games, 0-0.


SERBIA

They beat Germany thanks to some awful refereeing. It wasn’t a surprise, because Paul the Pyschic Octopus predicted it would happen. Other than that it wasn’t great to be a Serbia fan during this World Cup.


SLOVAKIA

Does it get any better than beating the reigning World Champions with a thrilling last minute goal? I mean, for a country that has absolutely no chance of getting beyond the second round…


SLOVENIA

Beating Algeria was about as good as it got, and even that wasn’t very good.


SOUTH AFRICA

Unfortunately their highlight was probably Tshabalala’s goal in the opening game of the tournament. They drew that game and went out at the group stage. However, their lasting impression will probably be the way they came out of the tunnel—singing loudly and joyously.


SOUTH KOREA

‘Highlight’ is probably too strong a word to describe their second goal against Greece. It would be harsh to label them as unmemorable, but it would be accurate.


SPAIN

They lost to Switzerland, and didn’t exactly set the tournament on fire. I was one of the few people who found their stupid little passes incredibly irritating and frustrating to watch.

They won every game in the knock-out stage, 1-0.

This does of course mean that they won the World Cup. This would be their defining moment—in the only World Cup in which they’ve gone beyond the quarterfinals.


SWITZERLAND

The best moment of Switzerland’s World Cup was beating the Spanish in their opening game. It would be unfair to say it all went downhill from there, but it was the only goal they managed in the entire tournament.


URUGUAY

The small South American nation punched well above its weight and had their best tournament since the two that they won in the 1930 and 1950.

Much of the success goes to Diego Forlan, voted the player of the tournament. Everyone loved Forlan, and everyone loved Uruguay—that is, right up until the point Luis Suarez robbed Ghana of their place in history. Even more annoyingly, Suarez then openly celebrated when Ghana missed the resulting penalty.


USA

The U.S. had a fantastic World Cup; they were unfortunate not to beat Ghana in the second round, and they demonstrated what those of us who watched the Confederations Cup last year already knew: America are a footballing force to be reckoned with.

The draw with England was impressive, but for sheer drama the highlight has to be Landon Donavon’s stoppage time goal against Algeria.



All I can do as a European is apologise and promise that usually football is much, much more exciting than this. Honest.