That's why this years' World Cup fever, especially the emerging fashion fever, is all the more surprising. (Although Euro 96 was certainly a good practice run.)
Now everyone wants to be a part of the fun. A quick peek into JJB, one of the largest sports chains in the country, reveals an entire wall of gear.
There's Umbro's England kit for home and away, complete with matching jackets, shorts and anoraks, and gear from France, Germany, South Africa and many other competing nations.
A look into fashion boutique Browns also reveals expensive (and unofficial) World Cup gear in the form of cashmere jumpers by FAKE London, complete with three lions on the back. They have almost sold out to the likes of Damien Hirst, Keith Allen and Alex James from Blur, the men behind the unofficial World Cup anthem "Vindaloo".
Meanwhile back at JJB's cash desk, men are queueing up with dinky England kits for their children at pounds 24.99 each, and adult versions for themselves at pounds 62. One of them, John Langley from Brighton, is buying his three- year-old identical twin sons matching England kits.
"My wife doesn't often let me buy their clothes, but I want them to remember their first World Cup," he said.
Aaah. What he doesn't know is that he can buy them cute T-shirts that say "My First World Cup" at pounds 15.99 each from children's label Little Badger, who have also done a jumper with a black-and-white football knitted into it, for both children and adults.
A further walk along the high street reveals that many stores have a World Cup section. Tie Rack has sponsored boxer shorts, socks, football- shaped cufflinks, caps, ties, silk scarves and T-shirts. The Swatch shop has unofficial watches.
The point of all this official and unofficial madness is that, beyond the traditional football uniform, there is a trendy alternative. (The only exception being Jamaica's Kappa-sponsored green, yellow and black kit ,which is the fashion hit of the moment, thanks to their underdog status.)
"I want that jumper," said one colleague after seeing Little Badger's football jumper. "Oh hang on, I want that Paul Smith T-shirt, too."
He's a football fan who certainly won't be wearing any official "rubbish", as he calls it. He wants to feel part of the World Cup without succumbing to the mass hysteria.
Fashion companies are quite good at this if they put their mind to it. Ted Baker are doing T-shirts in kit colours for both sexes that say "There's Only One Ted Baker" on the back. This, according to spokesman Stuart Roberts, is so that wearers can go into pubs that say "No football colours" and still support their team.
John Rocha's Jeans range also has some fun football-inspired T-shirts, but the colours offer no allegiance.
Paul Smith, official outfitter for the England team, who reveal their new suits next week, have done a short-sleeved shirt covered with a photographic print of grass, as well as T-shirts with a graphic football pitch, which also cross over to his children's range. (Age 12-13 is a perfect fit for a size 12-14 woman.)
The best fashion offering for the World Cup, however, has to be Louis Vuitton's limited-edition Monogram football, which is probably the chic- est thing to be seen kicking around this summer.
Just make sure you are wearing the right shoes. Camper do these marvellous vintage football boots ...
Jamaica's national team 'Kappa' football top, about pounds 45, available from sports stores natiowide.
'Rocha' football-inspired T-shirt, pounds 39.99, by John Rocha Jeans, available from Liberty, Regent Street, London W1 and House of Fraser stores nationwide. Details: 0171-734 0123
Jersey V-neck T-shirt with recycled cashmere, 'Three Lions', pounds 165, by FAKE London, from Jones, Browns, Liberty, and The Library in London, Wade Smith in Liverpool, and LITV in Manchester. Enquiries, 0171-499 3020
'My first World Cup' children's T-shirt, pounds 15.95, available from The Cross, 141 Portland Road, London W11, or call 0171-727 6760 for mail-order details
Grass print short sleeve shirt, pounds 80, and black T-shirt with Subbuteo print pitch, pounds 45, both by Paul Smith Jeans, 9-11 Langley Court WC2; Harrington, 39 Kingswell Path, Cascade Centre, Portsmouth and branches of Originals in Preston, Blackburn, Burnley, Bolton. Details: 0171-379 7133
Limited-edition Monogram football, pounds 290, and shoes, from pounds 170, from a selection at Louis Vuitton, 17-18 New Bond Street, London W1. Enquiries 0171-399 4000