Obscene chanting is virtually unheard of, unless Arsenal score

FAN'S EYE VIEW; No 137 Teletext Peter Lis
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The Independent Online
Football fans with the laudable aim of making a stand against both Murdoch Megalomedia plc and upwardly spiralling Premier League seat prices have an elegant, inexpensive solution at their fingertips: watching football on Teletext. TV and handset apart, all you need is an active imagination and a working knowledge of commentator cliches with which to flesh out the bare facts and figures which materialise on the screen.

As a Tottenham exile living in Derbyshire, Teletext offers many advantages. First, there is no more setting off at dawn in the deep mid-winter in order to witness a meaningless mid-table encounter. The days of parking in dodgy sidestreets miles from the ground are over, as is having to replace wing mirrors, aerials and the car stereo twice a season. And obscene chanting is virtually unheard of, unless Arsenal score.

Thanks to Teletext, it is possible to turn up just before kick-off (Wimbledon fans will notice little change in this respect), drink as much as you want, and a visit to the toilet at half-time no longer approximates standing on the beach at Weston-super-Mare at low tide.

Having taken your seat (which can be pre-warmed by prior arrangement with the cat), picked up the remote and switched on, all you have to do is sit back and watch as the afternoon's dramas unfold.

Both channels employ virtually identical colour schemes: sky blue and white for team names and scorers, with ITV highlighting the score in yellow. Other significant events are registered in vibrant red: "Adams sent off", "Wright missed pen", for example.

Whereas at a live game it is the fat bloke in the parka with the transistor radio who provides a haphazard update on other games, Teletext throws in all the other latest scores for free. On a good day you can experience the twin pleasures of watching your team running up a cricket score while simultaneously gloating over the misfortunes of your rivals: Spurs 5 Hereford 0, Sheff Utd 1 Arsenal 0, say.

Admittedly, some matchday habits do die hard: I once queued for a eight minutes outside my kitchen door before remembering that I could just walk in and help myself to refreshments. Those who wish to retain the illusion of reality should stock boxes of Wagon Wheels, a selection of supermarket meat pies (past the sell-by date) and make tea using water straight from the hot tap.

The live ambience can be further enhanced by opening all the windows and doors and getting the neighbours to shout abuse at you for the best part of two hours. With doors and windows closed, however, you have the equivalent of an executive box, for a fraction of the cost.

It is when the goals start going in that Teletext comes into its own, however. In the absence of Motson, Davies and, thank heavens, Stuart Hall, you are free to describe goalmouth incidents and scores for yourself. It is possible to imagine your team taking the lead following an exquisite through ball, a pinpoint cross or, indeed, a twice-taken penalty that hits both posts, the bar and goes in off the back of the goalkeeper's head. The permutations are infinite.

On a normal Saturday there are at least two, and sometimes three, separate "pages" covering a full League programme. So at regular intervals your team's match score suddenly disappears, reappearing 30 seconds or so later in updated form. The tension this generates is unspeakable, particularly when the score is 0-0 and the 90 minutes are almost up.

And, when it is all over, all you need to do is switch off the telly, pick up the empties and leave the room. Those seeking to accurately simulate the experience of being an away fan should get someone to lock them in the lounge for 20 minutes or so with a large Alsatian while they go off and break into your car.

So, turn on and tune in to the virtual reality of football on Teletext. No amount of satellite dishes, decoders, or pitch-side interviews can begin to replicate the adrenalin rush it induces, even allowing for the odd scrambled signal, which can result in such surreal scorelines as: 'Manch%@pounds er U^"&*d 1 L"ver$$$l ?'.