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July 04, 2010, Sunday

Soccer saturation and oysters

On Tuesday I watched Japan play Paraguay in the World Cup, neither of them able to score in 120 minutes of regulation and extra time. I was rooting for Japan, but it wasn’t to be. I do feel sorry for the Japanese player who hit the crossbar with his penalty kick.

The big match came later that night as Spain battled Portugal in the last of the group of 16 matches to decide the quarterfinal teams. Spain exploded from the gate, slamming the ball at the goal three times in the first six or seven minutes, but neither side scored in the first half. I resumed my post in the easy chair for the second half, saw Spain score in the 63rd minute and then I called it a night. I didn’t care who won. My eyes had glazed over with soccer saturation after more than three hours of the game.

I also was babysitting during the Paraguay match. That’s a fine art, pretending to be interested in your kids while watching the World Cup. They survived, and even had some food, though I can’t remember what I tossed on the table.

I tried to explain the game to my toddlers, which is difficult when you don’t understand the meaning or rationale of the offside rule. But actions speak louder than words. My daughter, Eylül, picked up a few tricks from watching the soccer players. For example, she was running around the table and tripped, but instead of getting up she stayed on the floor, hiding her face. Was she trying to prompt the ref into issuing a yellow card to the doll that tripped her?

Like any addict who’s had enough, I wanted more, so next day turned on the TV five minutes before the Netherlands-Brazil match… and stood there astounded at no national anthem being played, Did TRT make other arrangements for the quarterfinals? I zapped around looking, in vain. A call to my father-in-law straightened me out: The match was scheduled for Friday. I’d gotten so used to my daily dose that I only looked at the time, 5 p.m., and paid no attention to the day, July 2.

The forced withdrawal on Wednesday gave me a perfect excuse to attend a party that night to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Hilton Istanbul. The grand old dame of five-star hotels in Istanbul never looked better, and even the weather cooperated, for the sky cleared after torrential rains earlier in the day. I couldn’t say when I last ate oysters on the half-shell, but I enjoyed them very much that night.

Hilton Worldwide’s president and CEO, Christopher J. Nassetta, reminded his audience that the hotel in Istanbul was Hilton’s first international hotel and said they are considering more than a dozen new projects in Turkey. Hilton Regional Manager Armin Zerunyan boasted of all the movie stars and entertainers who have visited his hotel in the past -- he pointed out the suite where opera diva Maria Callas stayed and the balcony from which Louis Armstrong sang “What a Wonderful World.”

I had trouble getting back for a second helping of oysters, blocked by a frenzy of news photographers snapping away at Sabanci Holding Chairwoman Güler Sabanci as she chatted with Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Günay, who later presented a plaque of appreciation to the Hilton executives and to Dogan Holding Chairwoman Arzuhan Yalçindag, whose company bought a controlling interest in the hotel five years ago.

Only when leaving did I notice a row of antique cars parked in front of the Hilton, all on loan from the Rahmi Koç Museum to add a touch of period flair to the gala. I whipped out my new cell phone to take a picture, for the file. Unfortunately it’s only a two-megapixel camera and not suited to night scenes, so it’s my good luck that the hotel gave a commemorative book of the Hilton Istanbul’s first 55 years.

Now an e-mail reminds me of an event on Friday, a seminar I thought was on Saturday. This World Cup has gotten me seriously off balance. Maybe if I collapse on the floor the referee will make someone pay.

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