I hate football. Scratch that. I loathe football. I detest and despise this hideous game that is so all-pervasive that nobody ever asks you if you like football.
They ask you who you support, the assumption being that you obviously love the stupid game and it's just a question of which stupid club you follow.
I always reply in the same way: "I hate football." Things then get really awkward. This is because the sort of person who asks who you support is also the sort of person that takes your hatred of the game personally. You might as well have said: "I hate you and your tattoos and your badly highlighted hair and your inflammable clothing." Yet if I tell someone that I love cricket and they tell me it's rubbish or they don't understand it or hate it, I don't throw a hissy fit. I just feel terribly sorry for them and move on.
All this makes it particularly odd that I have watched pretty much every game in the current European Championship and absolutely loved it. I started watching in an attempt to be a good dad. Despite my best efforts, my son Jackson had been displaying more and more signs of an unhealthy interest in "the beautiful game". I behaved like an ogre and banned him from wearing football clothing. I bought him cricket bats and rugby balls, but it was of no use. So I gave in. I started watching Euro 2012 with him, as I thought it would be a good father/son bonding affair. It certainly was. I can now chat comfortably about Roy Hodgson's tactical choices, whether Rooney has had enough game time, whether Theo Walcott should start the game ....
It's crazy. Why have I suddenly become almost obsessed with this game? Partly it's because the underestimated England team have done so well this far (I'm expecting us to go out on penalties tonight). Mainly, I think I've just enjoyed sharing my boy's excitement. I love the fact that the stadium in Wroclaw blares out the Alan Parsons Project's "Eye in the Sky" song before every match. This, like the English team, is a much underestimated piece of work and I'm thrilled to hear it being given such a public airing. I'm also convinced that Greece's unexpected win against the much-fancied Russians was the deciding factor in the Greek people's decision to narrowly vote to stay in the eurozone. My only problem is having to field Jackson's non-stop questions. I try to deal with these as best as a non-football loving dad can:
"Dad, has any goalie ever kicked the ball from his goal into a goal at the other end?"
"Um, I'm sure it's happened."
"Dad, is Ronaldo wearing make-up?"
"Um, yes, I think he is."
"Dad, do all footballers have tattoos?"
"Um, I believe it's compulsory."
"Dad, what are they all shouting at the referee?"
"Um, they seem to disagree with his decision somewhat."
"Dad, why does everybody hate Germany?"
"Um, well, everybody doesn't hate them ... it's because of the Nazis ... it's a bit complicated, but they're OK now."
"Dad, who do you support?"
"It's time for bed, son."
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