The flat screen television in the café sits high over the pasta shelf, and the volume is adjusted cleverly so that it becomes audible over the café talk when a goal is imminent or a vital passage in play occurs, thanks to the rising pitch of the commentator's voice. In this way, you miss none of the important action while not having the sound predominate.
After 9 o'clock in the morning, when the rush commuters have 'grabbed' their lattes and run for the train, the slower customers arrive: the real estate agents from across the street come in for their takeaway coffees; Moreland council workers hunch over their cups around an outside table; the old Greek men come in and put coins on the counter for another short black, keeping their caffeine/talk ratio meter going.
Occasionally the picture on the television pixillates, turning national colours into screen bloodshed. A player runs towards goal, stops unnaturally, shoots forward several inches, and then his head explodes into squares of red and white or yellow and green and his legs disappear. Then the picture reverts to normal again and the ball is in the net, or not. The effect is stunning with multi-coloured strips such as Cameroon or the Ivory Coast.
A little background history always illuminates an event. Christian Eichler's Football 365 Days is 744 pages of World Cup archival photography with history and commentary. Published prior to the 2006 world cup, the book is dated but worth a read. Its sheer size will help speed the hours away until the 2 a.m. game starts. Along the way you can decide who, out of at least seven players, was the best ever. They include Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Pele, Puskas and two or three Mullers. Maradona? No. In most fields of endeavour, history loves humility, a quality that makes a champion champion-like. After all, sport is just play-war and you could have been dead.
World Cup Fried Chicken
This recipe uses lean chicken breasts, which must be cooked fast. This makes them ideal for World Cup consumption, because you don't want to be spending time standing over a stove, and anyone who doesn't mind doing so has long gone to bed.
Take four chicken breasts and slice into half inch pieces. They will marinate for as long as you like up to 24 hours, but they must be small enough to cook in a minute or two.
In a large bowl, toss the chicken pieces in a third-cup of peanut oil and a tablespoon each of cumin powder and chili powder, six finely chopped garlic cloves, a tablespoon of soy, a shake of salt and a dash of white pepper.
Heat some more oil in a cast iron pan. Fry chicken, turning when one side is sealed. Cook until just done. Serve on rice; or as hand-food rolled in lettuce and soft white bread. Drink: cold beer.