The World Cup is on. I’m getting excited. I am. As long-time followers of this blog will know, I take perverse pleasure in writing about the World Cup – not match reports, exactly, more like reviews – and if I’m going to do it again, as I am minded to, please can we get this out of the way first:
I do not follow football. I don’t have a team. As a boy, I never went to see the Cobblers play, although I followed league football with fervour and could draw every club badge from memory, as well as name every squad. I supported Liverpool, and then Leeds, and to know why I switched you’ll have to read the Leeds Mug chapter of Where Did It All Go Right?, which is available for 1p on Amazon. I realise I am every true football fan’s worst nightmare: someone who takes a keen interest in football once ever two years ie. for the international tournaments. For these, I throw myself into the stats and personnel and even fill in the scores in my Guardian guide. (Oh my God, he uses the Guardian guide, too!) It’s a bracing thing to do. But if I followed football on a religious, weekly basis, I would find me irritating or even heretical. But please don’t. I won’t be standing in a pub pretending I know all about football. I won’t be pretending anywhere. I’ll be at home, watching the matches, and, more sacrelige, not supporting England in the way that other English people do; I shall be following their progress with interest and enthusiasm, but not to the point where I will paint my face, fly a flag, or weep when they go out. I actually like watching the other teams more. I’m particularly fond of the African and Eastern European nations. I liked both France and Italy in 2006, and enjoyed the final – until Zidane did the stupid thing – without partisanship. I do not hate the Germans, either.
I enjoy the nature of the TV coverage, identifying the voices of the commentators and pundits, picking up on their cliches, and I love the roar of the crowd, even when it’s through the speakers of my TV. You won’t find me watching football in public. But I do cheer and boo at home. Especially if I’ve had a small beer. And I do shout at the screen.
Here is my review of the 2006 final. If you scout around previous entries, you can read other reviews and get a flavour of how a football lightweight covers such a tournament. Also, Euro 2008 is covered.
I notice this year that the Hammersmith Odeon – and yes, that’s what it’s still called to anyone over 30 – are showing the World Cup matches live, on a big HD screen (“equivalent in size to four Routemaster London buses”), surround sound, for free. (Actually there’s a £3.25 booking fee per ticket, but it’s free after that.) .
England’s Group C matches against the USA (12 June), Algeria (18 June) and Slovenia (23 June) will all be on, as will other England matches as the team, ahem, progresses through the tournament. Tickets are available here if you’re in the London area. It is called the HMV Apollo, by the way. I know!
I won’t be there, as I fear my lack of footballing knowledge would be sniffed out and I may be killed. But if you’re also a fairweather football fan – or you’re a proper fan and don’t feel the need to patronise me – join me!