Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our youth, not yours - Phil West

The old man said: “I know what it is to be young, but you don’t know what it is to be old.”

What I believe he actually meant was: “I know that Ronaldo was fantastic last season, but you never saw Cruyff, or Best, or Pele.”

Coıncidently, I said it recently to a group of my students. They looked at me blankly (so no change there from limits of functions) and then traipsed off home to their laptops and Youtube.

The next day saw us talking about that goal in the 1970 final. No, not Pele’s; Carlos Alberto’s thumping shot after the best build up in World Cup history. Some of them had viewed the Cruyff Turn, but struggled to come to terms with the idea that this was groundbreaking (“I can do that!” was said many times), and others asked me why poor old George had been unable to find the right treatment, what with all the money he must have had.

Not exactly what I had expected, but all undeniably true from their perspective.

So why do people my age go all misty-eyed at the mention of these names?

The word Nostalgia literally means "the pain a person feels wanting to return to his native home, fearing never to see it again".

Our native home. Our youth.

Some people feel nostalgia for 60’s fashion, or for Duran Duran, or for Mum’s stew on a cold January evening. A large number of us feel it for Sport; for Cruyff, Best and Pele.

We talked about them in our school playgrounds; we argued about them with our Dads (they had seen Stanley Mathews and Duncan Edwards, so thought we were quite mad); and we watched them on Black and White TV with those different coloured footballs and strange horns sounding from the terraces. I cut my knee whilst lost in Cruyff-daydream-land in my backyard and wondered whether a girl called Elaine would notice I existed if I could only once dribble around three defenders and lob the keeper. I never did, and she didn't.

As I approach 50, my youth is an Eden from which I have been cast out, but from where I still remember feelings of innocent sporting awe.

I do know what it is to be young. And yes, I fear never seeing it again.


Mouth of the Mersey said...

Phil - thanks for this.

I'm just a little younger than you, but I do know what you mean. Pele and Best I didn't see much of, but Cruyff's preternatural balance and imagination were extraordinary, balletic and beautiful.

But I don't feel nostagia for these players, nor for the King Vivs and the Mikeys and SK Warne (well, a bit for him) because I can find parallels today - not as good, but good. I'd take Spain 2008 to beat all the teams I've ever seen except Brazil '70, Ajax '72, Germany '74, Brazil '84, France '86 and '98 and Milan whatever year Gullit and van Basten and co played and were fit.

What I'm nostalgic for are the structures: the old dangerous grounds that cost £2.40 to get in (on the turnstile); the genuine challenges for the title from QPR or Watford or Spurs or... Everton; the thrill of seeing squad numbers at the World Cup and seeing these extraordinary players (Socrates! Rossi! Maradona!! Platini!) that he had only read about; and the away legs in some godforsaken hellhole in Czechoslovakia in the fog when a 0-0 really mattered. I could go on...

If you're new here, do poke around - please look up Doctor Shoot's take on nostalgia in the blog as it's lovely stuff - but there's lots more too.

Andrewm - where are you? This should be right up your street.

DoctorShoot said...

Good stuff Phil
and a great second half to Ebrens black and white remake in colour.

I once had a father in law who swore that Ian St John’s goal in 1965 was the defining moment in modern football... as opposed to the original olympics I used to retort...

Old Frankie B was the classic case of dreadful nostaligia; He carried his huge stack of magazines in his car and spent hours parked under gum trees in the stifling Australian heat with tears dripping onto the images from Anfield...

he left a cigarette burning in his car one time and it burned to a shell, taking with it all his precious memorabilia. I went to pick him up and he was standing next to the charred mess still holding his shopping bags, irreconcilably lost.

he never got back to the UK to see his precious Reds in their new red shorts. He returned to ashes not long after his car, as did my connection with his daughter.

Old Frank used to quote Bill Shankley's training roar:
"if you cannot kick with both feet, dont bother getting out of bed"

his youth not mine of course, but Ian StJohn's goal lives on.

offsideintahiti said...

The most genuinely touching piece so far, well done Phil.

I can't resist linking to the Doc's magnificient piece "One more River":

And one of my favourites on nostalgia, from Kokomo:

Both from 2007, things were better back then, non? Andy, have you heard of Kokomo recently? I caught a brief glimpse of his grandfatha on GU but I don't go there much nowadays. It's not what it used to... yeah, ok.

guitou. said...

Thank you, you just pushed my sentimental button,
"Nostalgia is not what it used to be"by Simone Signoret- a very accurate statement since we always look back at things or people of the past with melancholy or regret-Actually I am older than you Phil, and old enough to remember Pelé and Santos fc, Di Stefano and Real Madrid, Omar Sivori and Juventus,Fangio and later Jim Clarck .I was listening to the broadcast for his last race and I still feel the pain caused by his death-I love being nostalgic, it doesnt make me sad, most of all because I was fortunate enough during my life to meet personally some of these great legends of the past and under great circumstances-I even got drunk once with Georgies Best on st Patrick's day in an Irish pub in L.A but that's probably because he left me (he and his 4 friends) with a huge tab to pay:)-
for all of us loving sports, taking a trip down memory lane it's always a sentimental but pleasant journey full of good surprise- for ex, not too long ago, I was in London to watch Arsenal-Manutd-2_1-at the Emirates ,2 goals from Nasri. When was that?.....Baah, I'm too old to remember the day! I'm sure gg will help me on that-

philwest said...

Thanks to you all for your kind comments and suggested reading.
I'm not a writer, so I'm really chuffed you liked it!
I'll certainly write some more, and you can be as brutally honest as you like!

andrewm said...

I'll agree with the praise for this - perhaps the best of the nostalgia pieces I've read here or on GU.

I have a feeling that Ronaldo (the original) at his Barcelona peak was better than Best and Cruyff put together, but I generally keep that to myself.

offside, I saw him on GU, probably the same time you did. That's about all. I'd like to see all of our old friends back here, but you can't have everything.

bluedaddy said...

I also agree that this is a better piece than A or C on GU. I think given only 400 words on sporting nostalgia then the best route is the personal. I liked the idea of evoking death, miserable get that I am.

Me I'm off out in the pissing rain to hopefully create some new moments to remember when my hips finally go (at the end of this season most likely).

bluedaddy said...

BTW Are you Mencallmephil Phil?

philwest said...

I'm Phil West - my real name!

Anonymous said...

a real name on pseuds? Did you get a prefered visa from
Our distinguished boss?

Anonymous said...

anonymous ni more

mimi said...

I didn't submit nostalgia to Gu because you've all read my nostalgia here.

Did I cry on Sat when Wales lost to the Saffers? Yes, because if some of the old guard had been there, we would have won. Did it remind me of Gerald and Phil? JJ and JPR - of course it did.

Almost every sporting endeavour makes me nostalgic.

offsideintahiti said...

I know a James West, any relation?

Guitou said...

And a Jerry West alias mister Clutch.
Sorry for anonymous répétition

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