This is the first World Cup that I recall where I am single and unattached. I’m not married to any team but I also don’t loathe any, which is a problem. I dislike quite a few, but not the blood-curdling, top-of-the-head-exploding hatred of teams in tournaments past. I’m not sure how much I can enjoy a tournament if I don’t passionately loathe a team.
There’s a hole in my heart, I tell you.
I will root against Portugal, but not with the usual gusto. How can I not with a team that starts Pepe Le Pew, Pepe the despicable? Ronaldo used to irritate me a lot more than he does these days; he’s now more a pebble in my shoe irritant than a thorn in my side. He has lifted his game this year; he’s a bit injured. I sympathize. Also, I visited Lisbon last year and loved it. Everyone was so lovely. I can’t truly hate them.
I will root against Holland. Robben has way surpassed Ronaldo as the most talented annoying jerk, diving head first into the scuzzy pool of ick. As an Arsenal fan, I must hate van Persie and the little boy inside him, but he’ll probably stub his toe warming up for the first game and not play the tournament. Yet, I can’t really dislike them because, you know, they’re Holland. I worshipped Cruyff and Neeskens and Gullitt and Davids and Seedorf and, yes, van Persie, the bastard. History.
I don’t have to root against France. How can I not like a team that leaves Samir Nasri at home? Allez les bleus.
I used to loathe some of the German teams, mostly because they tended to play a style that I found dull, but I like this one quite a bit, not just for the Arsenal connection. They can play some of the most beautiful soccer, just gorgeous. Gotze, Ozil, Kroos; so sorry about Reus. Deutschland, Deutschland, uber something or other.
God, I miss the good ol’ repulsive German teams.
And England, how disappointing are they? Hating the English team was such fun. Kick the ball and run, kick an opponent and whine that the referee wasn’t macho enough. Uniformly overrated and underachieving, imperiously pompous, yet they always imploded with such glorious fanfare. They provided such joy. Not as much no more. Raheem Sterling is such a gem, Jack Wilshere is fun to watch, so many young technically gifted players. What am I to do?
Suarez has redeemed himself. Can’t hate Uruguay.
Can’t hate African and Asian teams out of principle.
Help me, please.
Italy? How can I hate a team with Pirlo? Watching him on the field brings such joy. Even Balotelli is fun these days. Ditto for Spain and Iniesta. Croatia and Modric. Brazil and Argentina are not hateable.
USA? Donovan isn’t on the team. Mexico? Who cares!
I need someone to hate, a team to make me scream at my television, one that when they lose, I can do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight.
Help me find a team so I can enjoy this World Cup.
Can’t love without hate.
Rabih Alameddine is a novelist. His most recent is An Unnecessary Woman.