A fleeting glimpse is a pouting temptress to the lusty, locked- out supporter

ON the ecstaSy of exclusion

There's something irresistible about football matches you only glimpse. It's like when you are decorating, and the newspapers you grab from the to-be-recycled pile turn out to be so fascinating that you wonder how you missed them first time round.

"Why an MBA makes all the difference." An MBA... that would certainly be something different. Worth thinking about...

"Cargo dangerous through infestation." A ship carrying groundnuts and wheat dumps its cargo at sea because an infestation of kharpa beetle is discovered. Who is liable? The more you read into it, the trickier it gets...

Unremarked riches, all demanding examination as the paint dries on the readied brush. Who can say how much appeal the obligation to do otherwise lends to the reading? All you can say is that if you had all day to pore over the papers, you would probably chuck them swiftly on to the recycling pile.

Now, God knows, there are plenty of boring football matches. But when you have neither the time nor opportunity to watch properly, the spectacle takes on a special compulsion.

Matches spotted while travelling by rail have always intrigued me. The winger has the ball, he's beaten the full-back, and over comes the... housing estate.

There is a line in Philip Larkin's Whitsun Weddings where rail travellers en route to London sight "someone running up to bowl".

That phrase expresses the tantalising nature of these fleeting shows - you don't get to see the outcome of the match, probably not even a passage of play.

I confess there have been times when such sporting excerpts have caused me to crane my head along carriage windows or, shamingly, to rubberneck at the wheel of my car.

The logical extension of this argument holds good. If restricted access stokes up the appreciation for a sporting event, potential or actual exclusion can drive people to a frenzy of interest.

Arriving late for West Ham's match against Liverpool earlier this season, I witnessed a fervent discussion outside the Boleyn Ground between a tout and a group of home fans. As the roars from inside the ground rose, so did the urgency of the supporters' requests.

At that moment, as far as those fans were concerned, the game - which turned out to be a decent 1-1 draw, dignified primarily by a well-struck equaliser from Robbie Fowler - was a pouting temptress.

When that situation is replicated on FA Cup final day, the emotions are supercharged. In 1987, when Tottenham Hotspur eventually lost 3-2 to Coventry City, I was engaged in a behind- the-scenes type feature of the occasion which meant, basically, that I couldn't just sit down and watch the game because I had to busy myself around the stadium.

As the match began, I was being given a guided tour of the turnstiles, and when a huge roar issued from within - Clive Allen having put Spurs ahead after two minutes - I will never forget the sound of the fans' pounding against one of the perimeter doors. As the barrier heaved and shifted under the pressure, I felt like a besieged mediaeval personage.

Not too long afterwards, Coventry equalised, and once again thwarted fans made their impression on the Wembley woodwork, although this time their chanting had a different regional bias. There was no question about it - when it came to football, absence made the heart grow fonder.

Recently I found myself following a Sunday morning football game through the window of an indoor pool I was visiting with my daughter. I know. But there we are.

Aligning myself unobtrusively with one of the sub-aquatic heating vents, I was able to look out upon the rainswept, windblown figures busying themselves in the visible segment of play with some smugness.

Did I wish I were out there? No fear. No thanks. I plunged backwards into the shallow warmth of the paddling pool, whereupon a collision with a girl paddling a float in the shape of a giant frog caused me to scramble, splutteringly, to my feet.

No way I would want to be out there on a day like this. No siree.

A small boy in goggles leapt off the side of the pool towards me, creating an explosion of noise and spray. Wiping the water from my forehead and eyes, I thought once again how glad I was not to be out on that pitch...

Actually it was then that I was caught by another little wave - nostalgia.

Shortly before the end of the match, the side defending the nearest end conceded a goal, and there was something about the slumped shoulders of the defenders as they straggled back upfield for the kick-off which registered on me.

Soon afterwards, those same players were fetching down the nets, the smaller ones wobbling about on the shoulders of their taller team-mates, before returning to the changing-rooms like a tribe - the Mud People. It was a glimpse of a tribe I missed belonging to.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss