Saturday, August 23, 2008

I know I am incurable, but when and how I got sick? And what are the symptoms? Precise date cannot be established, as is often the case of genetically transmitted deceases. My father took me to the stadium one day in the early 1960s and that was enough. I suspect it was sometime between 1963 and 1965, in Sofia, Bulgaria. The first symptom was watching, and after that the infection spread, producing new symptoms. For instance trembling of the body and complete impossibility to think of something else when football (FOOTBALL, not soccer!) match begins. Soon I started playing and since the biggest appeal of football is the minimal requirements – one needs only a ball – you can imagine the fury of demon Mother entering the room at the very moment when I was recreating the fatal miss of my favourite team… I just hit the side poll of the net… the old ceramic vase shattered to thousand pieces. The battle of wills started, still going strong. Naturally, collecting was the next step – a small scrapbook at first, quickly replaced by bigger ones, and after that – football magazines. Today it is huge, although a big part of it was lost – I had to run away from Communism and it was impossible to take anything with me, the collection stayed back in Bulgaria. I gave it up. Meantime, a new one took shape in Canada. By chance, I discovered my oldest scrapbooks in the basement of my parents in 2006… bringing the old books to the surface restored my Mother’s instincts at once. The spark in her eyes, the predatory look, savagely hissing ‘If I only knew those things were in the basement…’ One may not expect a 70 years lady to transform into a tigress, but there is huge difference between expectations and reality.
Anyway, I recovered the scrapbooks and eventually, when I managed to get my eyes away from them, a question developed: what to do with my collection? And with my football knowledge? This is the result: telling you football stories of life-long obsession. The passion of millions through the eyes of one. Which brings back the problem of dating the symptoms…
Since a child started somewhat flimsy collection, accident played a role. The exact moment is beyond recall, but looking at my oldest pictures, it must have been in the summer of 1971. Here is a specimen of the oldest scrapbook:

Coming from old Bulgarian newspaper, the picture had imbedded problem, unforeseen by the kid who cut it once upon a time: this is Girondins de Bordeaux, but from which year? An afternoon of intensive search produced happy results: this is the line-up from 1968-69 season. First row, left to right: Jean-Louis Masse, Gabriel Abossolo (Cameroon), Carlos Ruiter (Brazil), Yves Teixier, Didier Couecou
Second row: Bernard Baudet, Robert Peri, Andre Chorda, Christian-Jacky Castellan, Guy Calleja, Christian Montes.

This photo tells a few more things: my preference for saner football and the game of 1970s (so this picture is somewhat a turning point). It is a typical selection of those days: two native stars (Chorda and Couecou, both French national players and participants in the 1966 World Cup) and two foreigners (Abossolo and Ruiter, both generally unknown, yet Ruiter was the first Brazilian to play for Bordeaux, and had long spell in France). The rest is relatively solid bunch of journeymen. The year points at the change – the end of romantic soccer years and the beginning of serious and competitive fun. The beginning of the 1970s was looking very bright. This is what I think in retrospect; in the real time I was only a kid obsessed with football and making discoveries.
Lastly, the picture hints at my collecting preference: team pictures, rather than individual players and moments from matches. Statistics are also important as well football history.