Amy Lawrence, a blogger who writes about football for the Guardian and the Observer argues that twenty-five years after Gazza’s tears, Pavarotti, Totò Schillaci, World in Motion and the joy of Cameroon, the memories of an era-defining tournament still remind us of when even a World Cup was a smaller, simpler affair.
Italia 90 was the bridge from old style World Cups to the new.
Four years afterwards, Fifa began its quest to spread its tentacles, to take the show into territories where football was less rooted. Since departing Rome’s Olympic Stadium in 1990 with Lothar Matthäus’s arms around the golden trophy, three out of the subsequent six World Cups have taken place outside the traditional powerbases: USA 94, Japan and South Korea 2002, South Africa 2010 (alternating with three historic football countries in France, Germany and Brazil).
If we factor in the next two competitions currently set for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022, that trend towards developing markets carries even more weight.
Italia 90 took place in an era where attending a World Cup was not an outrageously extravagant idea for an adventurous football fan.
There was no notion of hotels or restaurants bumping up their prices by insane percentages to rip off visitors. Tickets floated about at face value if you looked hard enough in most host cities, certainly in the group stage. Word got round in the streets of the names of shops and bars which were selling match tickets up to the eve of the game. There were no fan parks, it was all improvised for better or for worse. The idea of a group of corporate punters forming a crocodile in branded baseball hats following a pretty girl holding up a sign bearing the name of a vast conglomerate as they march to a tented village would not have got very far. That audience didn’t want to go to football anyway then.