Miles Kington: The arcane rules of our great national game

During the second half, Mum will come in and say: 'Has Wayne Rooney been sent off yet?'
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The Independent Online

1. Football is a game for 22 players, a crowd of a few thousand and a worldwide TV audience of millions.

2. The game is started by one player passing backwards to another player.

3. Who shall pass it back to him.

4. And he shall pass it back again.

5. At this point Mum shall come in with a tray, saying: "Here's some tea."

6. Whereupon any of those present shall shout: "Mum! You're standing in front of the screen! For God's sake!"

7. Then Mum shall say: "Well, nothing's happening - they're only passing the ball to each other," and leave the room.

8. The players may touch the ball with their feet, head and body, but not hands.

9. The players may hit each other with any part of the body.

10. Only the goalkeeper may use his hands, and then only if the opposition has passed to him.

11. After the goalkeeper has picked up the ball and kicked it upfield, he shall shout furiously and obscenely at his defence.

12. When a player gets the ball he shall look up to see if there is anyone unmarked ahead of him wearing the same shirt.

13. When he sees there isn't, he shall pass backwards to a team-mate.

14. Who shall do likewise.

15. Till it reaches a player near his own goal who says to himself: "If I pass it backwards, I'll give away a corner - time to bang it upfield. No, hold on - I'll give it to the goalie."

16. At which the commentator shall say: "They haven't settled down yet."

17. And someone sitting at home shall say: "Mum's right, you know - they're just pissing around."

18. If a player tackles another player and is unable to deprive him of the ball, he shall attempt to deprive him of life and limb.

19. When the referee reproaches him with his act, he shall react with open-mouthed innocence, and the commentator shall say: "He knows he went in a bit hard there."

20. The first time a player attempts a shot at goal, the ball shall fly high over the goal into the crowd, and the commentator shall say: "Great shot, but way off target."

21. This shot shall then be repeated from different angles, at different speeds, from different heights, until the next three minutes of play have been obscured.

22. Before half-time Mum shall enter and say: "Any goals yet?", to which someone shall say: "Early days yet, Mum."

23. During the second half, a player will be taken off from each side to cries of "Good riddance!" and replaced by another to a general refrain of "Oh God, not him!"

24. If, however, the sub scores, the commentator will dub him Supersub.

25. During the second half, Mum will come in and say: "Has Wayne Rooney been sent off yet?"

26. To which someone will say, "He's not playing in this game, Mum!"

27. To which Mum will say: "Pity - he's the only one worth watching," and take out the empty glasses and cups.

28. Whenever the ball goes into touch, both sides shall furiously claim that it is their ball, even though the touch judge has already made his decision and never changes his mind.

29. On the rare occasion that a goal is scored, the scorer shall run like mad to a far corner of the ground, knowing that if he stays where he is, his team-mates will all jump on top of him and cause him serious structural damage.

30. Towards the end of the game Mum shall come in and ask if there have been any goals yet, and when told there haven't been, she shall say: "Very slow game compared to cricket. Freddie Flintoff would have scored 50 by now. Are these guys really worth a million a week?"

31. There is no answer to that, so she goes out again.

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