With a new stadium and back into European domestic football's premier competition, there are plenty of reasons for smiles from Athletico Bilbao supporters...
...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
When you have taken a lot of strong hallucinogenic narcotics in one's youth, occasionally your brain triggers a flashback; a brief shard of psychedelic vision in among the neutral tones of the straight world. That's what I thought I was witnessing watching the World Cup opening ceremony.
Perhaps more surreal still was having Clive Tyldesley commentating on it, especially without Andy Townsend uttering his 'that's better' and 'for me, Clive' mantras in our ears. Let's be clear about this, it was a mild form of torture, which once over, allowed to us see life as a more joyous experience merely for the lack of it.
No one seemed to even work up much of a sweat, quite possibly because some of the participants had just wandered onto the pitch, shuffling aimlessly around and looking vacant. It had the vague, shambolic tone of a school event whose budget had only stretched to crepe paper and lots of glue. Some people were on stilts though and you can't beat a man on stilts, largely because he's much bigger than you.
Jennifer Lopez appeared out of an egg, which I fondly imagine she lives in as though it is some sort of improvised caravan. She did that squatting while painfully bellowing thing, which is rather popular these days. It made it look as though she was trying to expel an especially reluctant stool or that she was actually singing out of her anal sphincter. Now that's an act.
A man called Pitbull, wearing a much smaller man's clothes, gave it up, along with another woman who looked very pleased with herself despite having no obvious reason so to do, but sadly, this musical extravaganza was lost on the viewer as all the microphones appeared, possibly in an act of mercy, to have been turned off.
This made things appear even more surreal as all events played out in a kind of throbbing silence. All effort by performers rendered mute. At one point it felt as though we were watching the whole event from inside a double-glazed glass helmet. Clive gave up saying anything at all as it unfolded like the sort of vision of horror a frontline battle unit may have witnessed in the Mekong Delta. Like all true psychedelic experiences, words became irrelevant and limited tools with which to make reason out of this reality.
And then it was over. Had it really even happened? J-Lo got back in her egg, Pitbull presumably into some sort of kennel. Opening ceremonies without the emotional and psychological support of LSD? Not for me, Clive.
Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com