Why I'm taking a sabbatical from football

It’s going to be hard, if not impossible, but I'm out of love with the beautiful game


It was the tale, or perhaps the ballad, of Loic Remy, that brought on my football sabbatical. The volatile Frenchman was signed in January by Queen’s Park Rangers, but was unable to help them avoid relegation five months later. Now the club can’t afford his £70,000 a week wages – not that they ever could – but, with him being on bail after arrest on suspicion of rape, nor can they completely get rid of him.

Only the absence of racism prevents it from being the perfect modern footballing imbroglio, but it was enough to push me beyond the tipping point, to a place where the game I once loved has become something I have decided I loathe.

This year – “the most anticipated season in years”, we are  told – I am on football sabbatical. Yep. I’m not watching the matches, nor checking results, nor reading or watching all the sensationalist chatter.

Trouble is, it’s not that easy. Open The Times app, which I pay a decent whack for, and their arts and books and news are all suddenly buried beneath a turbo-charged whoosh of goals, goals, goals.

Then there’s real life, which must now be muddled through without the stuttering Esperanto of football  – that convenient universal language of forced conversation between men, and sometimes women, who don’t like each other.

Predictably, there’s no solace to be found in social media either. On Twitter, otherwise indispensable journalists like Robert Peston and David Aaronovitch have had to have been unfollowed – a real blow, that.

Facebook is over. I dared logging on yesterday, and tragically couldn’t stop myself clicking “Play” on what turned out to be a video of a fat cabbie standing outside Arsenal’s ground and screaming down the barrel of a straight-to-web TV camera, with the anger of a man who’s just been told that Arsene Wenger himself has drone-attacked his daughter’s wedding.

It was a timely reminder that football partially remains the working man’s game, despite its costs having stretched far beyond what 99 per cent of working men and women should be expected to afford.

With Mo Farah and Andy Murray and The Ashes and the golf and The Lions and the cyclists to watch, who needs football? Not me, for the time being at least. Let’s see how long I last. Hopefully until the World Cup – which of course doesn’t count.

In time, we’ll get the Peru tribes

One of Peru’s so called “uncontacted” tribes has wandered out of the jungle and asked for food. Extraordinary video of the Mashco-Piro tribe, who in fact live in what’s called “voluntary” isolation, have emerged on the river bank and asked for bananas, machetes, rope and matches, and enforced their demands by threatening to cross a river in to a world where everyday germs could wipe them out.

Like royals and pandas, they continue to exist only with the permission of the wider world, and the terms are becoming less generous. Oil and gas exploration, drug smugglers, and particularly illegal logging, are making their tiny dominion ever smaller.

Should they cross the river, effectively becoming real-life time travellers? It is reminiscent of the reflections of Nelson Mandela, when he left Robben Island, knowing that time had all but stood still for him for 20 years. Either way, it seems increasingly certain that we’ll come for them in the end.

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