With that quadrennial festival of expectoration and tedious nil-all draws which end in dramatic penalty shoot-outs – the World Weary Cup – nearly upon us, here are some questions for the football-shy to consider when they are unavoidably confronted with what is, surprisingly, not yet called The Beautiful Tournament.
1. Which words can Robbie Savage not pronounce?
This is a bit like asking “How long is a piece of string?” in that the list could literally go on forever. Have fun compiling it. Your starter for ten: Manchester.
2. Who has the more boring voice: Steven Gerrard or Michael Owen?
Steven Gerrard is England’s captain, a position which holds about as much status as a milk monitor in Year 4. He comes across as the scouse equivalent of Andy Murray. Michael Owen’s tone seems so disinterested one wonders if he has borderline personality disorder (he doesn’t – I checked, although he may just be undiagnosed).
3. Which channel has the more intelligent football punditry: BBC or ITV?
You’ll need an atomic microscope to find any intelligence, but one channel must be marginally less crass and inarticulate than the other. (The question is similar to asking “Who has more charisma: Ed Milliband or Michael Gove?”)
4. Is Adrian Chiles Benny Hill’s love-child?
It’ll give you something to think about when listening to his cultured voice (and looking at his Benny Hill face).
5. How many times can you hear the phrase “controversial decision”?
This is a euphemism for “mistake”. Referees make a lot of “controversial decisions”. It is a controversial decision to believe that England can win the World Cup.
6. Are football players wimps?
Whenever a footballer is kicked in the shins or goes over on his ankle there’s always some smug, armchair rugby supporter on hand to launch into a misogynistic diatribe about all footballers “behaving like girls” when they get kicked in the shins or go over on their ankles, whereas the real men of rugby can run into a brick wall at 80mph and still not realize that they’ve been hurt (the armchair rugby supporter mistakenly reading this as a sign of masculinity and not a sign of not having evolved a brain). I gather that Ireland are better than England at rugby, which, as an Englishman with an Irish name/ancestry, leaves me somewhat conflicted. Or it would do if I cared about manly pursuits.
I’ve been kicked in the shins and I’ve gone over on my ankle: both hurt (however, I am a wimp).
Watch a game of football and make your own mind up.
7. Why are England so rubbish?
The England fan vacillates between the raucous, pre-tournament bravado of “Yeah, we’ll definitely win it this time!” to the post-opening match despair of “We’re the worst team ever!”
England are probably quite good, the footballing equivalent of the middle-set child who coasts all year, thinks they’re clever enough not to revise and is left wondering in August why everyone else did better than they did. They end up doing okay, but I expect that you need to be better than okay to win the World Cup (or, in England’s case, you need to be better than okay, you need to be on home soil so that you can have the crowd as a twelfth man in every match, and you need a Russian linesman in the final as the thirteenth man).