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Soup of This Day #266: And You’re Miles And Miles From Your Nice Warm Bed

November 15, 2012

Friends Arena
I’ll be there for you and when the rain starts to pour, we can just close the roof – It’s fully retractable – Photo: Håkan Dahlström, 2012. Håkan Dahlström is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I never had an imaginary friend.

Which isn’t the same as saying that I had no imagination, because I was a highly imaginative kid – I created worlds all of my own that I could retreat into. There were lands of snowy wilds and staunch fortresses perched on the side of craggy peaks. There were remote tropical islands, with yachts and submarines. And all of these were conjured up right there in my mind – Some feat given that I’ve never touched snow, aren’t good with heights, get seasick and suffer from claustrophobia.

And I had to deal with all of these imaginary issues without the aid of an imaginary friend. There were other people in my worlds – There were associates and colleagues, allies and co-pilots, assistants and subordinates – All loyal and respectful, but none of them friends. You see, in my head, I wasn’t by myself but I was alone.

I was an imaginary loner.

Even when I imagined myself achieving great things on the sporting pitch I was alone. Partly because I often imagined myself in sports which weren’t team orientated but even when I was part of an imaginary team, my imaginary team-mates were like cardboard cut-outs to my 4-dimensional presence.

The 4th dimension was my appeal to girls. Yeah baby.

I’d imagine myself on a football pitch, the team down 2-3 (I’d scored the 2 goals) – It was the semi-final of a World Cup and we’d unfairly been reduced to 10 men with just 2 minutes of normal time remaining.

Fortunately we still had the 1 player who could turn around an imaginary game of football in my head no matter the mountain to climb.

Me.

I’d cut a swathe down the right wing, leaving gasping defenders lunging in my wake, before slaloming into the penalty area, drawing out the keeper and then unselfishly teeing up a simple tap-in for 1 of my lesser team-mates.

Then, with time running down, I’d summon 1 more superhuman effort. Taking the ball from my own goal-line, where I’d had to make a desperate save (Honestly, I feel like I had to do all of the work), I’d drive through the opposition mid-field. As I stormed towards goal the last defenders would be heading me off, ready to corral me into a dead-end.

I had 1 more trick up my sleeve.

From 35 yards out I’d curl a thunderbolt into the top-right corner of the goal, just past the despairing lunge of the keeper. Longworth72 4, Hapless opposition 3. The stadium, 1 of Europe’s most palatial, would erupt, even the opposition fans standing to applaud and laud. I was triumphant, feted and acclaimed.

And I was alone.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been if I’d imagined myself in Sweden’s new national football stadium. Located next to Lake Råstasjön in Solna, Stockholm, the sparkling new arena has a retractable roof and a capacity of 50,100, all of whom get to sit on IKEA’s latest Löngwörth72mådethisup seating.

It’s difficult to write about Sweden without referencing IKEA.

Imaginary furniture notwithstanding, it’s a classy venue. Although that’s not why I should give it an imaginary whirl – I’m instead taking my cues from 2 impressive facts:

The 1st is that the place is sponsored by Swedbank AB, who as the name suggests, are a Swedish bank. They have not chosen to name the stadium after themselves though. Instead they have decided to name it after an organisation that is against school bullying. That non-profit group are called Friends.

Yep, it’s Friends Arena.

The 2nd reason is encapsulated in the following video:

Fetch that

That goal was from a friendly match played last night between Sweden and England. It was the 1st football match to be played in Friends Arena.

Friends Arena – Where every match is a friendly and there are no strangers – Just friends you haven’t met yet.

Sweden fittingly won 4-2. They had trailed 1-2 at half-time but were able to call on a player whose subsequent efforts assumed Longworth72 imaginary proportions.

Zlatan Ibrahimović scored all 4 of their goals. The last 2, included a direct free-kick from 25 yards out and the ridiculous overhead volley from full on 30 yards out that you’ve hopefully watched above.

If you didn’t watch it then go and do so now. I’m not kidding – It was an overhead bicycle kick that flew in from 30 yards away.

On an angle.

Go on, I’ll wait for you here if you want another look.

It’s ok to be amazed – For non-soccer types it’s worth pointing out that this is freaking amazing. Some media organisations have even begun a debate over whether it is in fact the greatest goal ever.

It’s not.

It’s audacious beyond comprehension – Make no mistake – Zlatan meant for that ball to end up in the net just like that. Ibrahimović is both maddeningly brilliant and brilliantly mad – He’s made a career out of alternating between feats of astonishing skill and wonderful brain-fades. It’s never entirely clear which Zlatan will show up, either for a match or sometimes for a season. This explains why he’s been through a few clubs in his time. Each outfit has toted up the brilliant against the bonkers and decided that some other club has probably got better psychiatrists.

Personally, any player who can sum up a situation that quickly and then score a goal like that, 1 so mind-bogglingly astonishing that even my imagination figured he was having a laugh, has got to be worth a contract. Even if he does bugger all else for an entire season.

It must be all that time spent in the ball room at IKEA.

It’s not the greatest goal ever though – At least not to my way of thinking. There’s a few reasons behind my logic:

1. It was a friendly match. Not a World Cup quarter-final, a la Maradona’s snaking slalom through England in 1986. There’s a lot less pressure in a friendly – It’s a short step up from an exhibition and players are wont, encouraged even, to try things they’d never pull in a tournament game.

2. It was the end of the match, injury time, but Sweden were leading 3-2. A half-court buzzer beater when you’re down by 2 trumps the same shot when you’re up by 3. There’s less drama and less pressure.

3. It was a poor headed clearance by the keeper, Joe Hart, and his defender. They did their level best to tee up the loopy Swede.

4. It was 1 touch. A freakishly mind-bending touch to be sure, but just the 1 nonetheless. I would have liked to see him nutmeg a few players and maybe try a rainbow flick for good measure – I just felt like he didn’t work as hard as he could have.

For all that, I’ve spent a bit of time tonight watching that strike from a bunch of different angles. It’s extraordinary – The kind of stuff that will be feeding kids’ imaginations for years to come.

Maybe even The Noah’s.

Although Zlatan will have to work hard to impress the pragmatic and phlegmatic little dude in my life.

The other day we were driving along when he announced that he needed to pick up his imaginary friend from school. I’m ok with him having imaginary friends – He’s 4 and it seems pretty normal – so I helpfully tried to play along by asking which school we needed to go to to pick up his friend from – I was fully prepared to drive there – Within reason – I wasn’t going to Stockholm for instance.

It turned out I didn’t need to go anywhere – He responded with a straight face and a deadpan:

‘Dad, it’s imaginary.’

Obviously.

And You’re Miles And Miles From Your Nice Warm Bed

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