Friday, 13 June 2014

Oh, balls!

I will not blog about the World Cup.
I will not blog about the World Cup.
I will not blog about the World Cup.
....OK, I’ve blogged about the World Cup.

It’s one of those times when I really feel my ‘outsider’ status. 

But it’s got nothing to do with being a transplanted Brit living in Greece. I felt this particular aspect of my ‘otherness’ just as keenly when in the UK as I now do in Greece. 

I don’t even feel conflicted about which country to cheer for. (I'm pretty confident that neither the Englanders nor the Bubble Boys will overstrain those patriotic muscles I usually leave unflexed. But, having said that and based on my track record of predicting winners, we’ll probably now see an UK-Greece Final).

The truth is I just am not remotely interested in football. Greeks who enthusiastically ask me who my team is shake their heads in sorrow and disbelief when I tell me "none", but that's the truth of it.

Nor am I remotely inclined to fake enthusiasm to get in with the tribal crowd glued to late night TV screens, clutching a beer can in one hand, a slice of pizza in the other, screaming abuse at the ref and roaring like a pride of lions when a ball happens to connect with the back of the net.

I’m the one usually pointedly doing the washing up and gathering the assorted detritus of their soccer viewing, whilst shooting barbs as those avoiding domesticity by daring the enjoy “The Beautiful Game” and being yelled at to get out of the way as some player with a name that ends with '-inho' prepares to take his free kick.
Alternatively, I’ll be slumped in the corner, trying to read a book. During one World Cup, I planted myself in full view of the fans in our house, very obviously and studiously reading “The Football Tribe” by anthropologist Desmond Morris. 
No-one noticed.

As I write, we have just one game under our belts, and who knows how many more until 19 July. I have more than a month ahead of me in which to find new and interesting ways to fill my time against the backdrop of whistles, kicks, cheers and cries of “GOAL!!!!!!”. Maybe I should abandon the draining board and the bookshelf, slump myself down next to the menfolk, grab a slice of pizza and amuse myself by annoying the hell out of them by asking moronic questions about the Off Side rule?

But I wonder what it’s like to be soccer-indifferent in Brazil? I mean, I know that it’s virtually a religion there – despite the protests going on in parallel to the current Footy Fest – but statistically, there must be some folk in the country who really don’t give a flying f….ig about two gangs of grossly overpaid eternal adolescents in shorts running round a field trying to shuffle a leather ball into a net.

I assume throw themselves into the whole Fiesta side of the event, painting their faces or bodies in the chosen team’s colours, hugging strangers in the crowds, joining in with chants they don’t know the words to, getting up and down at the drop of a hat to form a human wave around the stadium, ogling the buff bodies of some of the better preserved and painted fans. With a bit of effort, I'm sure they can make all these activities fill their day and become part of the action without even looking in the direction of the 22 blokes dashing around a field like ants whose nest has been smashed by a clumsy hiker.

I played football once. It was a lot more fun than watching it. Sadly, my team mates sent me packing shortly after I whooped with joy at my achievement of putting the ball in the net for the third time (when I put my mind to it, I'm really good at enthusiasm).
I guess the look on our goalie’s face should have been a clue that I should have been aiming at the OTHER end of the pitch. 

In my defence, no-one told me we switched ends at Half Time.

I know what’s going to happen. Despite my protestations of not needing to run with the herd, I'll get sucked into the Footy Fest frenzy eventually.
Unless I check into a nunnery for a month’s spiritual retreat.

Considering the fact that I'm about as spiritual as a house brick, and the kind of trouble my mouth is likely to get me into with the Mother Superior, I guess I should start brushing up on my copy of “The Idiot’s Guide to the World Cup”.


  1. Here in England I, too, am part of the crowd who just doesn't care. Fortunately, I married a wonderful woman who doesn't care either. And my kids might be doing stuff concerning "Teams played sports" (as the entire sports section of a newspaper was summed up in Friends) at school but they're getting none of it here at home.

    If you'd tagged your blog post with the #WorldCup hashtag on Twitter, I wouldn't even have seen it going past - Tweetdeck is set to filter those out for me and does a damn fine job.

    I see this as a cracking opportunity to catch up on all the TV and films I've recorded over the last year. To play boardgames and RPGs with the kids. To studiously not give a rat's arse about these muppets who earn more in a week than I earn in a year.

    So stay strong. Don't get suckered in. Get a laptop and a boxed set of 24, Lost, Fringe, Warehouse 13, anything that takes your fancy. Oh, and some good noise-cancelling headphones. I recommend Bose.

  2. Or, as someone else pout it; "kicking a pig's bladder into an onion net". Nice piece, Mandi - not an anti-footy rant one might have expected! As a lifelong footy fan maybe I should quote Bill Shankly, a former manager of Liverpool FC: " Football isnae life or death; its far more important than that." As for overpaid - well, I can't really dispute that, buit its worth remembering that the club pays what they feel a player is worth. Some years ago, Brian Clough paid £1M for Trevor Francis, the first time that that figure had been 'achieved'. In the same season, Francis scored the only goal in the European Cup Final, The money that the club gained in revenue from that one goal far exceeded what they paid for him, And if you feel left out in a house full of footy fans, just think ion this. Bill Shankly again: "I've been asked if I took my wife out on our anniversary. I did. we went to see Tranmere reserves...."

  3. I don't loathe football nearly as much as I can't stand rabid football fans, especially not half-crazed Engurland fans.

    Now we have retired to mid-Wales maybe we won't suffer, like we have in the past, from the deluded boozed-up eulogies spouted by nationalistic/patriotic (strike as you see fit) fans about how well "we" will do, when any fule knos Engurland are incapable of getting past the QF and will more than likely lose their last match on penalties.

    These deluded idiots honestly believe the team will play better if "the nation gets behind them" and ev ryone festoons house, car and garden with red crosses on white, whereas it's probably nearer the mark that the weight of unreasonable expectation crushes the players before they've even run out of the tunnel.

    I'd like to see an African team do really well, like Cameroon did way back when. Who could ever forget Roger Miller making love to/dancing with the corner flag, a forty-year-old captain playing the football of his life? Now that WAS exciting!

    But Engurland? Forget it!