He skyed it

Looking back on previous international football tournaments, which are my cue to become interested in football for a couple of weeks every two years, it amazes me that I somehow had the time to “review” individual matches. I’m impressed with myself. Not at the layman’s articulacy with which I captured a sport which I spend most of my life not watching, but at the sheer dedication, and at the sheer spare time I seem to have had in 2010, 2008 and 2006 (before which I wasn’t blogging).

This is essentially what I wrote before the last World Cup, and it still stands. It is important to know it. 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 and ground. I collected the stickers, and knew who played for whom in the First Division and even some of the teams in the Second. 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. Or at least, I have done for as long as I can remember, but NOT THIS YEAR. This year, due I can only assume to the general penny-pinching of the print media as it looks down the barrel of extinction in the digital age, the Guardian have not supplied a pull-out guide packed with essential information for the casual fan. I am bereft without it, and didn’t think to pick up another paper which did have a guide in it. It’s too late now. I know all the information and commentary will be online, but I don’t have a smartphone at my side while watching the telly, nor do I wish to. And it’s not just about filling in the results. It is a bit about that, as the last World Cup’s guide proves:

Anyway, on with my disclaimer. If I was one of those people who 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 for the next couple of weeks. I won’t be pretending anywhere. I’ll be at home, watching the matches, and only supporting England through geographical accident of birth. I shan’t be painting my face.

I am already following their progress with interest and enthusiasm, but not to the point where I will fly a flag (I think you know how I feel about the flag), or weep when they go out. I actually like watching the other teams more. During the World Cup I became 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 World Cup final. If you scout around previous entries at that time, July 2006, you can read other reviews and get a flavour of how a football lightweight covers such a tournament. Also, Euro 2008 is covered; just look up June 2008 in the archives over there on the right. As I say, I’m quite proud of my efforts looking back. I wrote a series of “essays” for the 2010 World Cup – “essay” being a subtle pun on SA, South Africa. The first is here, and the rest are nearby.

I won’t be “reviewing” matches this year, as I simply do not have the luxury of time. I’m busy writing two pilot scripts for two broadcasters and when I’m not doing that, writing bits and pieces for Word, and writing my Guardian TV review, and writing things for Radio Times. I’m jealous of myself in 2010, 2008 and 2006 for having the time to write so many words for free, for myself, for fun. I am, however, enjoying Euro 2012 and will be “reviewing” it for Telly Addict this week, with clips!

So far, I’m fascinated by how many players have one entire arm covered in tattoos, usually the left, although I think the Republic of Ireland’s Glenn Whelan has his right arm covered. I feel sure this has increased since the World Cup. See? That’s the fun of only watching football every two years; it’s like not seeing a niece or nephew for that amount of time and noticing changes that would be imperceptible to others closer to them. When the BBC’s Alan Shearer came on for the first time, for a split second I thought they’d sent his dad.

Oh, and I’m really enjoying what feels like a pretty new England team, while they’re still in the competition. So many names and faces I’ve never seen before! Wellbeck! Lescott! Young! The improbably-named Oxlade-Chamberlain! I pity the rest of you, with your rolling knowledge.

Anyway, on with the melodrama, the greasepaint and the well-recompensed spitting philanderers …


9 thoughts on “He skyed it

  1. “I won’t be standing in a pub pretending I know all about football for the next couple of weeks. I won’t be pretending anywhere.”
    I’m all for that level of support, AC. Besides, the pubs will already be full of experts who reckon they know one end of an oxlade-chamberlain from another, although just two weeks earlier they thought it was something their granny kept under her bed back in the day. And while you’re in the alternative footie zone, try:

      • For completeness, I should say don’t mind at all (sorry, only just seen your reply here). Defeated by facility to reply rather than comment with Twitter though. Had to set up a WordPress account instead (and I work in IT!)

  2. “the Guardian have not supplied a pull-out guide packed with essential information for the casual fan. I am bereft without it, and didn’t think to pick up another paper which did have a guide in it.”

    Well you do plenty of work for the Radio Times and they have given away just such a pull-out guide. I sincerely hope they don’t hold their contributors in such low esteem that they won’t stretch to giving them a free copy of what is a very cheap freebie. Actually it’s not exactly packed with information, but you can fill the results in!

    • I don’t want a wall chart! I want a guide, packed with information about the players, context etc. I want, in short, what I have come to expect from my daily newspaper: a booklet! (Am I so demanding?)

      • Not at all. I always look forward to The Guardian’s European Championships and World Cup Guides. I was out of the country in the week leading up to the Euros so just assumed I’d missed it.

        And speaking as a football fan of the more partisan nature, at least when it comes to club football, I always enjoy your write ups of games. Like yourself, I much prefer to watch teams other than England.

        Finally, I know you say you don’t like to watch games with smartphone in hand but I can’t recommend highly enough following @backofthenetFFT for humourous observations during the games.


  3. Somehow it seems fitting there’s no free booklets – just noticed that too – because, from where I’m standing, it feels like a low-key tournament that had no big build-up (of course the pre-tournament talk was mostly, rightly, about racism & homophobia). The England team is similarly low-key really. I could follow football closer than I do but Wellbeck does seem to have appeared quite suddenly for our second choice striker after Rooney. Perhaps you could post simple lists of observations each day, although this golden period with matches every day & England still in it is always over too soon (imo).

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