In a Venn diagram depicting faintly tragic, futile male obsessions there would be no overlap between those who appreciate football and those who appreciate cars. The predictable news last week that yet another footballer has bought a new Hummer reminded me of this indisputable truth: that you can appreciate and understand one or the other, but never, ever both.
Of course, I know too that footballers are famous for spending bundles on their cars but that has little to do with demonstra-ting any kind of discernment. If contemporary society (which, as far as this particular demographic is concerned, is largely shaped by what 50 Cent thinks about stuff) judged Space Hoppers to be the ultimate measure of status, Wayne Rooney would turn up for training on the biggest and most expensive one he could get his hands on. No, to qualify as a car fan, there needs, again, to be an element of discernment in the choices made. But can you name me one Premier League player who drives an Audi S8 or Citroë* C6, for instance, or has put his name down for a new Bristol? Has anyone ever seen a member of the England squad behind the wheel of an Alvis or tinkering 'neath the bonnet of his Hispano Suiza? Even if they were to buy a Ferrari Scaglietti instead of the blindingly obvious F430, or a Bentley Azure (£225,000? That's, what, an hour's work for John Terry?) instead of the ubiquitous GT, I might have a little more respect, but they all seem compelled always to go for the biggest four-by-four on the planet, or the knee-jerk supercar du jour.
But as someone who loves cars so much it hurts, I have an almost evangelical drive to convert others to the nuances of their beguiling beauty. I can't bear it when people spend vast sums on what are quite clearly the wrong ones. Kieron Dyer's Bentley GT looks like a fat Skoda (which is no coincidence as it was designed by an ex-Skoda man); Beckham's Cadillac Escalade fixation is, psychologists tell us, concrete evidence that his sex giblets were airbrushed in those Armani ads; while someone ought to tell Ashley Cole that his Range Rover Sport is really just a Discovery designed by Hot Wheels. Clearly, what the Premiership's finest need is a crash course in car appreciation. And I am the person to give it.
I propose lecture nights every week round my place, using my stack of old Autocars, screenings of the collected DVDs of Steve McQueen, and a good long session in front of eBay browsing the "Cars, Parts and Vehicles: Classic Cars" category. Towards the end of the course this will be augmented by a field trip to the Righini Collection, housed in a 13th-century palazzo in the small town of Panzano, near Modena, which is, in my view, the most perfectly chosen car collection in the world, featuring Mussolini's Lancia and the first car Enzo Ferrari ever built.
Here, in Italy, David, Wayne, Cristiano and I will be free to roam, with me in the role of automotive Socrates (no, not him, the Greek one) and they as my little Platos, soaking up a car culture so advanced and civilised that its citizens have absolutely no need to indulge in trivial and absurd pastimes like football.
- More about:
- Automotive Equipment (car Industry)
- David Jones (Footballer)
- French Football
- Kieron Dyer