1982 – there’s not much that I remember about those years because I was a very young lad of not yet 6 when that world cup was played. I don’t think I watched more than the final between Italy & West Germany and do not remember anything of it. I do remember my sister saying that after Kuwait’s (which is where I was born and where my family & I were living at the time) national side qualified for the World Cup in Spain (their first and only appearance in a wold cup tournament) there was a huge celebration all over the streets of the tiny nation.
I remember her telling me that there were people all over the streets throwing confetti and shouting happy slogans and that the cars found it hard to get through traffic because of the crowds. Image if they have won! for me, the big thing about the 1982 Espana World Cup is the fact that the nation where I was born & lived in for 11 years qualified, played 3 games (lost 2 and drew 1) and also had a controversial moment!
Mexico 1986. For many football fans this was the most memorable World Cup ever, even for me. I was about to turn 10 when the tournament started and didn’t watch many live games. However us kids would watch some highlights and results every evening and discuss games and goals in school and later in the day with friends as we gathered in our building. The world went crazy for Argentina and a midfield maestro named Diego Armando Maradona, who was all over the news, newspapers and tv – I remember that Toyota in particular had ads with him as a brand ambassador that was shown so often on Kuwaiti tv.
Documented in a popular film, I and my cousins relived Mexico 86 for a couple of summers afterwards. One last thing, back in Kuwait in 1986 a chewing gum company (can’t remember which one) had a project for football fans. You could buy a book from them in which all the competing nations were entered and empty slots kept for each squad member. For each pack of the chewing gum you bought, you would get a small pack of 5 stickers on which you’d have the profile photo of a player in the Wold Cup. So one pack of gum gave you 5 player stickers and you had to fill the entire book with all the players – for which the company would give you a large prize. I managed to finish a little over half by the end of the tournament but still have the book for a long time.
My first World Cup once back home in India was Italia 1990. I had just started my 9th standard (grade) in school and 2 weeks in the World Cup started. We even had to write an essay about the World Cup in English class! At age 14 I was able to get permission from my parents to stay up late and watch the late night matches even on school nights. And yes this was the first world cup that I watched most of till then. My favourites were ofcourse Argentina and I was supporting and cheering for them until the very end. I remember watching the final with a cousin of mine, just a little while after the 1990 Wimbledon men’s final.
1994 was a bad year for me personally and I was literally in tears lying on a bed in the bedroom downstairs at my old home while watching the games every day during the USA World Cup. Held in 9 cities over the country, the World Cup was a huge blur for me, even though I watch almost all the matches, uptill the semifinals when I finally cheered up. But the biggest & saddest shock of this world cup – and I think it is the saddest ever – was the death of Columbian defender Andres Escobar. In the group stage match against the United States, he scored an own goal that eliminated his team. Escobar was shot to death outside a bar in a Medellín suburb only ten days later, apparently in retaliation for the own goal. As the insane idiot shot at him, he yelled “goal”,”goal” with every bullet shot! Such a tragic story.
The 1998 world cup was another really memorable and enjoyable one for me. Perhaps no other world cup was an enjoyable and as exciting for me personally. I was 21, not yet 22, studying at NIIT and despite most of the matches ending late at night, like 1am-2am, I would watch all of them and get up at 5 am 4 days in a week to get to the 7 am class at NIIT. Me and the other guys would be in class, eyes red as hell and guzzling down loads of hot black coffee to stay awake while the ladies looked at us as if we were insane. Once the classroom and lab sessions were over (usually at around 11 am) we would spend the next 2 & a 1/2 hours discussing the matches that we had seen the previous night. At 1:30 pm we would leave for lunch and head back home.