In the Summer of 1982, I was 15 years old and on the verge of spending time away from home for the first time. Three weeks on an exchange trip to Germany was in the offing and Northern Ireland had qualified for the World Cup in Spain.
In the first group stage, they battled out a couple of draws against Honduras and Yugoslavia before facing the hosts Spain. Nobody gave them a chance, but it was a match they had to win and clearly it was a match they believed they could win, even with 10 men for most of the second half. I still get goosebumps watching this heroic performance which won them the group and qualification for the second phase of group games with Austria and France.
So the World Cup 2010 is on. I’ve never been very good at playing football, but I’ve always enjoyed having a go and will continue to do so for as long as I can. I’m quite good at watching from the armchair, though. For this tournament, I’m running a wee Score Prediction Game online. When I conceived this labour of love, I envisioned a much bigger thing with prizes and everything, spreading virally around the Twitterverse. However when push came to shove and important things like work and family took priority, I only just about managed to get it implemented in time. I’m delighted to have the little group of 29 predictors battling it out throughout the tournament.
As the 2010 tournament begins to splutter into flame halfway through the group stages, I’ve decided to look back at my World Cup memories down through the years. My interest in football probably was just beginning to blossom in 1974 (aged 7) what with Cruyff, Beckenbauer and my “namesake”, Gerd Müller and Co., but the real strong World Cup memories begin in 1978. Read more…