Ten minutes to kickoff

TVs aren’t cheap. They’re cheap compared to cars I suppose, but you could get a decent number of Peperamis for the price of a TV and still have change for a packet of Angel Delight to dip them in.

They’re not something to just break at random, at any rate. It’s unwise to smash a TV simply because you don’t like what it’s doing; turning it off would save a lot of money. But if I hear the fey, winsome cover of the Cyndi Lauper song ‘True Colours’ come out of this TV one more time I plan to immediately kick the fucking thing to death and get myself right on down to Currys.

It’s not the TV’s fault; it’s Sky. They’re using the song to advertise an upcoming event on one of their sports channels and they keep playing it every single time there’s an advert break. Perhaps if it was advertising golf or rugby I could ignore it, since my boiling hatred of those two facile activities would drown out whatever shite was soundtracking it. But no, it’s an advert for the new Premier League football season.

You could surmise that I like football. Once a year I donate over a grand to an organisation worth £1.3 billion the last time anyone counted, for the privilege of standing in the same spot a few miles from my flat 26 times a year, and shouting until my hair turns grey and my arse falls out. I probably wouldn’t do that if I didn’t enjoy it at least a little. But I actually do it through habit, because I have for so long and the one time I don’t I’ll forfeit the right to do it again for Christ knows how many years. That’s how they keep us hooked: fear of missing out.

In truth I go to watch my football team not for the football, but for the buggering about. For a couple of hours before every match I stand in the same spot (notice a theme?) in the pub talking complete bollocks with a fine collection of gentlemen my year would be a great deal worse without. We talk about everything but football and we get quickly drunk, it’s superb fun and then someone notices it’s ten minutes to kickoff. With a degree of sorrow, at least on my part, we switch pub for stadium to yell obscenities at people just doing a job, and wish messy death on the few thousand bastards at the other end wearing different coloured replica shirts to us.

While it’s happening it’s impossible not to take an interest, but taking the game seriously at any point outside of the actual 90 minutes is beyond me now. I used to rake any form of press I could for a snippet of information on my team, and thought of very little else but who ‘we’ were playing next, and after that, and after that. It seemed to transcend almost everything and virtually all my friends were the same. The ones who weren’t were weird.

Now – almost certainly because the money in this sport has replaced any form of simple fun that used to exist, or fair play, or competition for the sake of it rather than for the prize money – I couldn’t give a shifty shit about it. There’s such a gigantic disconnect between the people running around on the pitch and the mugs forced to pay exorbitant amounts to support their team live, it’s impossible to feel any more affection for these people than I do for anyone else I spend a lot of time staring gormlessly at, like Krishnan Guru-Murthy, or Tori Black.

Every new season we’re told this is going to be the best and most important ever, as though last season was a selection of friendlies that, yes, we still had to pay a thousand pounds for. Every weekend has a ‘huge’ fixture or a ‘crucial’ or ‘must-win’ game, as though the losers will be lined up and shot through their screams of contrition. The media wallows in the notion that they’ve created a world where people need football facts like methadone, and everyone’s biased and everyone’s wrong when they disagree with you and every defeat should result in sackings and millions more spent on yet more footballers. At no point does it occur to anyone that they’re talking about people kicking a ball around a field.

The ‘True Colours’ advert involves stills of footballers moving slowly across the screen like a teenager’s bad 3D art project. People look serious; livelihoods, if not lives, are at stake. There’s sorrow on the way for the many and joy for the chosen few. And anyone who doesn’t understand how fucking important this all is should just piss off and watch the cricket.

I live in hope that at some point English football will have a moment of epiphany, most likely at the moment it realises it can see its teeth having disappeared so far up its own arse. It might realise how it’s taken the fleecing of gullible, trapped fans a little too far, by charging them five times as much for a season ticket as the best teams in Germany, Spain, Italy and anywhere else football is viewed as a spectator sport rather than an unusual form of banking. It might consider that money would be better spent on allowing as many children as possible to play and enjoy football, rather than allowing as many adults as can afford it to channel pure hatred at each other, while having absolutely no influence over some of the richest people ever to have been paid to have fun.

Or I might be sitting here 12 months from now, looking forward to meeting my mates in the pub before the first game of the season on Saturday, excited about just how ‘big’ this season will be, remembering just how small and pointless last season was in comparison, and wondering who I’ll be ordered to hate most come May. I wonder which is more likely. I wonder.

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