Be gentle with me, soccer fans, I'm a television virgin

Click to follow
I AM on telly tonight. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Not only have I never been on telly before, but this was also an ideal opportunity for me to pontificate wisely about football. About Chelsea. In front of millions. No one in their right mind could say no to that.

I decided against painting my face blue or wearing the Chelsea strip for the occasion. It would only detract from my authoritative demeanour.

Instead, I went through my wardrobe with a fine toothcomb looking for something - anything - that was not black. You are not supposed to wear black on telly; it makes you look fat. To no avail. Anyway, the point was not supposed to be what I looked like. The point was to impress a nation with my superb, in-depth knowledge of the beautiful game. Yikes, I thought, pre-telly anxiety setting in.

The great day came and anxiety had transformed itself into blind panic. In traipsed seven men dragging several tonnes of equipment behind them and muttering 'atmos, atmos' (atmosphere to you and me).

I, meanwhile, dutifully made seven cups of tea, only to find that the minute my back was turned they had rearranged the furniture. Obviously my interior decoration was not as stylish as I had thought. Having moved my ornaments (all six of them) to one corner they then, eventually, made me sit by the window.

As if by magic, when the camera started to roll, my fear subsided. The interviewer nodded encouragingly as great truths fell from my lips. 'Have you really never done this before?' he asked. 'You're a natural.' I knew it was true.

It was all over in an hour and I was delighted. With international celebrity only a stone's throw away, I would have to practise my signature for all the autographs, I thought.

Then they sent me the video.

My black clothes certainly do not make me look fat. In fact, shot from above, my arms waving about strangely, I look more like an ant with big hair than anything even remotely human. My ornaments, sorry, atmos, make me look as though I am in the middle of a car boot sale.

I had confidently prepared several weighty tracts on the cultural significance of the game: how football has the resonance of opera and the grace of ballet, the precision of science and the beauty of art. That sort of thing.

Instead of any of this, when it comes to the moment when I describe my first football experience, I just say: 'The first goal we scored, I was on my chair, screaming and shouting with the rest of them.' So much for the authoritative demeanour.

After that, I explain, 'I was kinda hooked'. Kinda hooked. I can only imagine this was my sad attempt at being groovy. I swear I have never tried to be groovy before.

'Why are these first games imprinted as indelibly on the memory as one's own birthday?' asks the interviewer, Nick Hornby, in one particularly moving moment.

'It was Chelsea-Liverpool,' I say, batting my eyelashes, obviously trying to 'make love to the camera' or something. 'We beat them 3-1.' All well and good, apart from the fact that the score was actually 4-2.

It could be my imagination but at this point, if you listen carefully, you can hear my cat scrabbling in his litter tray in the background. He always does that when we have guests.

The rest of the programme is full of witty, passionate football aficionados talking about male bonding, tribal grouping, about the Northern League (whatever that is). Meanwhile, I pop up on the screen with the devastating contribution: 'The way you win is by scoring goals.'

True, but hardly Cartesian in its proportions (good player, by the way, that Cartes bloke).

Suffice to say, after seeing myself on the box, I had not felt so downtrodden since, well, since Chelsea got tucked up so royally at Wembley. Of course, if they had filmed the programme after the Cup Final, I could have talked about the men with tattooed heads sobbing in the aisles. I could have talked about the pain and humiliation intrinsic to being a football supporter. I could have talked about the euphoria of the game at the start of the day, and the total devastation when it was over.

It seems to me that football and television have more in common than meets the eye. Where else can you make such a complete idiot of yourself in front of so many people? Where else can such total exhilaration, in a matter of moments, become such hopeless despair?

Being on telly, it's a funny old game. If you are watching tonight, be gentle with me.

Miles Kington is on holiday.

Comments