Dom Joly: Ah, the beauty of hating football

Weird World of Sport
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The Independent Online

I've never been to see a game of football ... there ... I've said it and it feels better. You might think I'm joking or trying to be controversial but I'm not – I've never seen a game of football... I've said it again and it feels liberating.

You can silence rooms around London with that comment. It's a bit like when you're having a nice banal chat with a cab driver and he suddenly drops a racial slur into the conversation as though confident that you'll be cool with it. I've been in meetings and getting on really well with people and then they'll ask me which team I support. Not do I support a team? Not do I like football? Just, "Which team do you support?" It's the equivalent of the "When did you stop beating your wife?" question – there's no way out.

I have to mumble that I really don't have any interest in football and then there's a long awkward silence followed by, "What, not at all?" This is my final get-out clause and I normally say something like, "Well, I sometimes watch the World Cup," and I know it sounds really feeble and they all hate me now and I will soon have to leave.

The thing is, why should I have to like football? I grew up abroad until I was eight so I never really had a team to support from the start. I'm not alone in this disinterest – there are others like me out there but, worryingly, they're falling like ninepins.

Jeremy Clarkson was famously anti-football and was even upset that his son was starting to play the game – a feeling that I share as I channel him away from the football shirt section in shops.

Then Clarkson writes a column about how he's been to Chelsea and really enjoyed it – one less in our number. Last week on Five Live, the presenter Colin Murray, who is an unstoppable "Who do you support?" merchant, asked the current Doctor Who, David Tennant, the question. He sheepishly admitted that he didn't have much interest in the game. "How about golf or croquet?" persisted Murray, insinuating that having no interest in the game is a sort of class decision.

It was a pretty good, informed interview until then, but suddenly the rapport disintegrated and it all ground to a halt. I don't like Doctor Who as a programme (there's another conversation stopper) but I really like Tennant now – I feel a kinship with him that was sorely lacking when he was just slaying Daleks.

Part of me realises that it has almost become my "shtick". Maybe I should just go and see a football match and get on with life. My friend Danny Wallace has never eaten a prawn. I once tried to force him to eat one and he nearly did but was stopped by someone next to him who said that he shouldn't give into base pressure and that it would change his "essence".

I've no idea what he meant but it looks like he was right – there's suddenly a slew of people talking about things they've never done in the hope of getting on new TV shows like, I've never seen 'Star Wars'.

As it so happens, I've never seen Star Wars. I'm not big on sci-fi, hence the disinterest in Doctor Who. If they called me up and asked me to go to a football match I would be in a bit of a quandary – it's become a part of me – the football hater.

On the other hand, it's the big gap in my knowledge base (along with sci-fi and economics and show tunes... and gardening). It would certainly help me out in future games of Trivial Pursuit and pub quizzes, but is that enough to suddenly "do a Clarkson" and become a turncoat? The sad thing is that I'm pretty sure I probably would enjoy a game of football. Thinking long and honestly about it, I realise that I actually don't want to do so.

Maybe it is a class thing? My dad always pushed "rugger" and cricket and tennis on me and I do love these sports, although not, with the exception of cricket, with a passion. Maybe I'm just being snobby. I did once try to support Shrewsbury Town – I can't remember why but it quickly fizzled out to nothing. Ah well, maybe it's for the best. Everybody else writes about football and I can concentrate on mud-wrestling and croquet and real tennis ... each to their own.

Anyone for Twitter? U cannot be serious

I've started following the musings of Andy Murray on Twitter – gripping stuff: "Funniest airport check-in for ages. Fitness trainer in pink sequin baseball cap 4 a forfeit." Who needs football when you've got such tennis high jinks?