Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Battle of Fantasy vs Reality

I'm not a great fan of domestic football but I love the World Cup. It's not often the world comes together in such a competitive yet encouraging way, and the concentration of the competition over a few weeks and the opportunity to root for an underdog really makes for a great occasion. I don't get all patriotic and jingoistic, however; in fact, when England play I always support the opposing team (true punk that I am). However there can always be spoilers in the tournament and whilst this competition has been superb until this point, last night the spoiler was Germany.

They were described as a "well-oiled machine" by one of the sporting pundits and whenever I've watched Germany I've always thought they were just that: a machine playing with military precision. There's an inevitability to their success, and whilst I don't pay enough attention to look at actual statistics (which no doubt would prove me wrong) it seems that they win every game I watch. That inexorable steamrolling success really gets my hackles up because it runs roughshod over the magic of the game and trashes fantasy by replacing it with reality.

I'm a great fan of fantasy over reality. Let's get this into perspective. As a writer I love the way fantasy intertwines with reality - that what we often consider to be real is in fact quite fantastical. I'm not into overt fantasy such as elves, dragons or games with thrones, but the sense that what we perceive to be real is actually fantasy if we take a step back from it. Sometimes it seems mankind's entire brief is to catalogue the world into routine compartments and to suck the joy out of it. That's why we devised society - to dampen fantasy. And what we've decided to call fantasy in it's place is actually escapism from the society we've created. What we should be doing is reclaiming fantasy from the 'reality' our consensus has decided to call society.

So when Germany scored five goals within 30 minutes of their semi-final with Brazil it completely ruined the remainder of the game - and the tournament. No matter how skillful Germany might have been, or how much credit we should give their players, they completely snuffed out the World Cup. Brazil were not a great side, but they upheld the fantasy of the competition. Germany's performance was not magical, it was routine, equivalent to clinical deforestation in a rainforest. Even the team's celebrations appeared mechanical. Their crushing victory reasserted 'reality' over fantasy, deflated the momentum of the tournament, the final games are almost irrelevant, it no longer matters who wins.

There's something about the destruction of a dream, the imposition of reality, that hurts; that reminds us of the inevitability of death. If Germany had won the game 1-0, or 2-0, or even 3-0 then that wouldn't have been a problem, but they stamped on Brazil's hopes and dreams and ground them under a jackbooted foot. It was the extent of the rout which did the damage. They were the eleven horsemen of the apocalypse reminding us that reality will reassert itself - over and over again - if our consensual reality lets it.

We must take a stand. Embrace the fantastical in your life and let's turn reality on its head.

(I should add that the diatribe against Germany is not due to some misplaced post-post-war residue - I am in no way anti-German and if they had played England I would have backed Germany to the hilt).


  1. Andrew, I'm sorry to say that this is a typical response from a non-football fan who has been hoodwinked by the Brazil-loving media. They have no divine right to win a football match just because Pele once represented them. Germany's goal burst was thrilling and, in the context, was itself the stuff of fantasy, turning expectation of home victory on its head.. As for deforestation - more has been cut down in the Brazilian Amazon over recent years than in the Deutsche Black Forest.

  2. Allen, you've probably got me bang-to-rights on the non-football fan point of view! I guess my Latin American Magic Realism v German Expressionism is a flight of fancy