If you are dreading a month of football, read on...
Tuesday 06 June 2006
There have been lamentably few escape routes over the years for the long-suffering World Cup widow. Separate homes is an option for some, but too expensive for most.
But with the 18th World Cup starting three days from now, and the England team arriving yesterday in Germany, deliverance has arrived for those who dread the four-week purgatory of navigating empty beer tins and brewing up on the stroke of half time.
The small - and mainly female - minority who have no desire to distinguish a Mirzapour from a Schwarzer (or know that these are the Iranian and Australian goalkeepers, respectively) may now chat with each other through a number of websites, including worldcupwidowsclub.com and stoptheworldcup.co.uk.
The Worldcupwidowsclub site was formed by a group of women who were playing online bingo when they found, through their messageboards, that they were dreading the World Cup and the estrangement from their families which it brings.
The website already offers an excruciating taste of what the World Cup will mean for some families. It features stories of people such as Cathy Edwards, from Bootle, Liverpool, whose husband is hard of hearing and must turn up the volume for games. He also "shouts at the screen", Mrs Edwards confides, "as if they can actually hear him".
Jeanette Clunie of Edinburgh has her Staffordshire bull terriers to fear for, as much as herself. When her husband is "shouting and cheering" at the figures running around on his television screen the dogs "shake with fright". Mrs Clunie adds that "it's even worse when they lose" as "the poor things shoot out of the room and take cover".
A ban on football posters and flags seems to have been applied in some houses, while Kath Cross, from Cardiff, confesses that she once threw out the video recorder to stop her husband from watching endless repeats.
But many of the solutions being proffered through the website are more positive. These include booking a holiday to Trinidad & Tobago (whom England meet in the group stage on 15 June) because the islands will be football-free when they are eliminated early. One of the cheaper and less adversarial options is the preparation of World Cup-themed recipes, including meatballs as made in Sweden, another of England's group opponents.
In the defence of football addicts, the widows can hardly complain about the lack of alternatives to the tournament. Companies have been salivating for months at the prospect of them seeking an escape and are making a number of inflated claims about their powers to see them through this ordeal.
The Linthwaite House Hotel in the Lake District promises a free glass of champagne in apology if any staff member accidentally blurts out the f-word, and is lining up Bridget Jones's Diary and Pretty Woman DVDs. The " lifesaving" Kettering Park Hotel & Spa in Northamptonshire offers much the same in female luxury.
EasyJet is promoting women-only World Cup getaways to the Mediterranean island of Gozo. And the Swiss Tourist Board has gone for broke by promoting holidays for football widows in adverts featuring half-dressed men - including Mr Switzerland 2005 - leaning laconically against cows. "Dear girls, why not escape this summer's World Cup to a country where men spend less time on football and more on you?" the advert states.
Kirsten Jensen, 27, a secretary from Rotterdam, who set up stoptheworldcup.co.uk and its sister Dutch site wegmethetwk.nl, said her aim was serious. "I'm part of a group of women who think that there's just too much about soccer on television and that we have to do something against it."
But some widows have already concluded that they can't beat 'em. The town of Wagen, in the southern German region of Baden-Wurttemberg, has been swamped by takers for preparatory football camps for widows, including training in theory, history, and practical play. And the World Cup Widows' Dictionary, produced by holiday resort company Butlins, is doing nicely, with its tips for widows on what not to say if England get knocked out, including: " Now England are out, it would be nice if Germany or Argentina win."
World Cup widows
Kath Cross, 29, CARDIFF
"I hate football so much I threw out my video recorder so my soccer-nut partner could not tape games. I have no refuge. My programmes are switched off and I'm forced to go out. When my family is jumping up and down on the sofa cheering on England, I'll be praying for them to be knocked out. Then I might get some peace."
Rebecca Gillick, 35, BULFORD, WILTSHIRE
"I know what it's going to be like when World Cup fever hits - bedlam! I'm usually the skivvy handing out beers and crisps and trying to keep the noise down. As a mum of four I knew I lived in a family of football fanatics when my youngest son's first words were a soccer chant. I'm outnumbered [at home] three to one."
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