When antennas were tall

GOALS DOWN MY MEMORY LANE
When antennas were tall
Maria Komandnaya, TV host
GOALS DOWN MY MEMORY LANE
When antennas were tall
Maria Komandnaya, TV host
Goals Down My Memory Lane is a Welcome2018 project, in which mainstream media personalities and columnists share their recollections of the past World Cups that have stuck in their memories.
Goals Down My Memory Lane is a Welcome2018 project, in which mainstream media personalities and columnists share their recollections of the past World Cups that have stuck in their memories.
Maria Komandnaya
Maria Komandnaya, a journalist and sports anchor on Dozhd channel, covered the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. She writes sports columns for several papers, including The Moscow Times.

Maria hosted 90х60х90, the show starring famous footballers and football coaches, on Russia 2 in 2011-2012. Her next TV show was What Women Want, also devoted to sports. She MC'd the Draw ceremony for FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia™ in 2017.
This is the summer of 2002, and I am a young teen. The TV in my room is set to sports channels all the time. I mostly watch tennis, athletics and skiing. There is lots of sports in my life, but no football. The football World Cup is on. I have heard about it. This time, for some reason, it is taking place in two countries at the same time, and this fact baffles me no end. I know that our squad is there, and its opponents are Belgium, Tunisia and Japan. The latter two are football midgets of some kind. The angry pronouncement that 'everyone and their mother think they can play football nowadays' is yet to be coined. This is a time when football squads and coaches rarely park their squad bus in their penalty area, unless perhaps it is a marshrutka minibus.

Our first match in that World Cup was against Tunisia. I was not going to watch it. I went out to do some chores instead. Show me a thirteen year old without a lot of chores to do. There is no such animal!
I walk out into the street and I can smell the rat right away. It feels like the end of the world is upon us. All the people have turned into some kind of zombies who are lying low for now, but when darkness falls, they will all crawl out and start devouring those of us unfortunate enough to still be alive. But seriously, this isn’t some 'walking dead' daytime drama in the making, so what is going on?
I walk out into the street and I can smell the rat right away. It feels like the end of the world is upon us. All the people have turned into some kind of zombies who are lying low for now, but when darkness falls, they will all crawl out and start devouring those of us unfortunate enough to still be alive. But seriously, this isn’t some 'walking dead' daytime drama in the making, so what is going on?
It turns out our squad is playing against Tunisia right at this time. The streets are completely deserted: my entire hometown Krasnogorsk must be watching the game. I feel curious: look what football does to people! Whence comes such tremendous bonding power? What is the deal here? I do not make it home to watch the rest of that game, but I start watching football, which is on nonstop, day in, day out. This feeling, when the player shoots goal-ward and your heart skips a beat… I love it so much!

There is this film, it has a kind of a long title: To Each His Own Film, or When the Lights Go Out, Your Heart Misses a Beat, and the Movie Starts. This moment really happens there, in your heart. And when you are watching a football match, whether at home or at the stadium, it happens with particular frequency. These sensations were all new to me, and I was intrigued.
Then our squad loses to Japan, and football fans go rioting in Manezhnaya Square. I remember the NTV footage of those riots so vividly it might as well have been yesterday: overturned cars, cars on fire, people running aimlessly, smashing shop windows for no reason… I didn't get it then and I don't get it now. Football seems to possess tremendous destructive power, too. But why? I did not know this word, "destructive," then, but I could appreciate the awesome power of football. As I was getting ready to go to a football stadium for the first time to do my job a little over five years later, my dad asked me, sounding concerned: 'Is it safe there?' The memories of those riots, and the awareness they brought of the fact that football can wreak havoc, would stay with me for a long time. But there was nothing I could do: I had fallen in love back then in 2002, during that World Cup. In love with football. I was devastated when our squad got kicked out, but I gave myself to my new passion with complete abandon.

My passion has a focus: the Brazil squad. Before I know, I am at the market buying some notebooks with Rivaldo on them. There were these markets back in those days: not roofed, not farmer's markets, but, like, rows of tents where one could buy absolutely anything, including an awful lot of Brazil squad paraphernalia.
There is nothing I can do. I fell in love back in 2002, during that World Cup. In love with football.
There is nothing I can do. I fell in love back in 2002, during that World Cup. In love with football.
In just two weeks, football becomes an important part of my life. It provides emotions the likes of which can hardly be found elsewhere. 'My' Brazil is pitted against Germany in the final. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Cafu, Roque Junior, Gilberto Silva… What a squad it is! And the Germans have the great Kahn! Surely I love him, too, but when Brazil wins, I am in ecstasy! Ronaldo lifts that Cup up over his head, and I burst into tears. The footballers do their victory lap around the pitch, and I feel like I'm running with them.
This was a very special time for me, and a very special summer. Football became the love of my life. This kind of love does not fade in three years or so, it lasts. That same summer of 2002 I told a girl friend of mine I was going to be a sports writer and commentator. She sniffed: "Not a chance, Masha. Sorry!" Just you watch me: I'm going places, I thought to myself. Now I commentate football, I do interviews, I report in-situ, and I anchor TV shows. A girl may be in love with football, but she cannot go anywhere with it, you say? Nonsense! You can do anything, the key is to really, really want it.

I realized as I watched that World Cup 2002 that I wanted football to be my life. It was my first conscious dream – and the greatest thing football ever gave me. There is nothing like having a passionate dream and watching it take flesh. Nothing can compare to it.
Images:
Lyalya Bulanova for Welcome2018.com