It’s all about the Joga Bonito

It’s been a summer where we all got stricken with a serious bout of World Cup Fever. None more so than MUNDIAL’s Sam Diss.

When someone says “I love football” you tend not to take it as seriously as when someone says something like “I love skiing” or “I love Huey Lewis & The News”. Of course you like football, everyone likes football, the biggest, most watched sport in the world, a sport that dominates news and culture and awkward office interactions while making tea. But there is loving football and there is being obsessed with football. Sometimes I feel like I have given myself over to it totally. That my body can only function in ninety minute intervals, or however long Match of the Day is on-length intervals. It is the thing that I measure days by. It is the thing that dominates my thoughts. This summer, football consumed me. I let it. I let it seep into every cell in my body, this World Cup fever, and I know that I am not alone. To be obsessed with football is to be obsessed with the world’s most popular pastime, but despite the billions it reaches, it can still feel intensely personal.

In football, we have grudges and soft spots and weaknesses and blind spots and rages over certain players and teams that often have no bearing on our own lives. Most of them are the very definition of irrational. For example, I feel an innate sense of pride whenever Ivan Rakitic does well, even though “doing well” is basically his job, seeing as he is one of the best midfielders in the world, a supremely talented part of Barcelona’s highly successful team. But I just like him. He is not a plucky underdog nor a success story grown from a seed in the academy of my own club. But memory, in football, like in all things to do with love and art, is an incredibly potent thing. My love for Rakitic didn’t come from a screamer or barnstorming one-man performance: it was from the way he moved, the way he played, visions transmitted to me via a shitty BeIn Sports stream on my laptop, Rakitic in blue and red, his blonde hair waving, calmly moving past players the way toothpaste oozes from a tube. I was struck. I thought: god, he’s good. He made it all look so easy. Easy in a way my body could never know how. Sometimes that’s all you need: a small light to go on, deep in your cerebellum. Football activates strange emotions and feelings, strange reactions in the people hooked on it. I have memories of football matches where even thinking about them makes me feel physically sick, losses so rooted in me that I feel them in my bones. And then I can feel nothing for a team or a player, and find myself on my feet, yelling at their misplaced pass or jumping into the air at their genius.

Maybe football messes with your brain. It messes with mine: the connect between past and present, nostalgia and now, feels intertwined in a way that is not always comfortable, but always keeps me interested. Our magazine, MUNDIAL, started as a way to let people wax lyrical about their greatest footballing memories. It was a way to glorify the already glorified glory days. But as we progressed, we realised that rose-tinted glasses don’t need to only be for looking back: we took the thoughts we reserved for special moments in our youth, of players and teams and goals and kits and boots and stadiums and songs and burgers, and used those feelings in modern football. Youthful naivety mixed with (slightly) wisened cynicism. There are many things wrong with the beautiful game, but the game itself is not one of them: the game is pure even when it’s in disarray, it’s gorgeous and fun even when it’s scrappy and tired. Sometimes it feels remiss to want to grab people by the eyeballs and go: Don’t you know how good this game is? Don’t you remember how much this means? But people fall out of love with football as life gets in the way. But football is a release, it is escapism, it is
a time capsule. It stays the same, even in its most ridiculously advances
in technology and trends, and reminding people why they love football, why football will always be constant in these inconsistent times, is what
it’s all about.

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