Christina Patterson: I always thought football was boring. Now I know it's rotten

Football, it turns out, is run by a group of ugly old men who look very like the villains in James Bond. They sit and think of ways to make world leaders look silly
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The Independent Online

Hillary Clinton and I have a lot in common. On Monday night she swapped her peach pant suit for a black one, and stood before the world's assembled press, or at least some of it, including the BBC, who were clearly at the back, because we could only see her in the gap between the cameras from more important news agencies like Fox, and said that she was sorry.

I don't have a peach pant suit, but on Monday night I, too, was wearing black trousers and a black jacket (trackie bottoms and a fleece, actually, because I'd just been to a yoga class, where the teacher had said we should open our arms until we were "nicely crucified", which may well have been how Hillary was feeling, too) and I, too, wanted to say that I was sorry. I wanted to say that I was sorry, because I'd always thought football was boring.

I'd thought football was boring because when you go and see it, which I've only done once, which was quite enough, it takes you hours to get there, because the traffic is awful, and you can't find anywhere to park, and you have to queue for hours in the freezing cold just to get into the stadium, and you have to be herded by police as if you've committed a crime, which you haven't, but now feel like doing, and then when you finally get to your seat, which isn't very comfortable, and the men come out on the stage, wearing outfits that aren't really warm enough for the weather, they don't do anything interesting like sing, or dance, or recite poems. They just chase each other up and down, and sometimes shout, and sometimes scream, and sometimes wave their arms, and sometimes kick a ball.

I think the ball is meant to go in the net, but when I went, it didn't. When I went, which was when Spurs were playing Manchester City, and a poet was writing a poem about it, which is why I was there, nobody did anything except run up and down and then, after 45 minutes, 32,000 people queued up to buy a beer and then, after another 45 minutes, they went home.

I'd also thought football was boring because it made men who were sometimes quite sensible, and who sometimes even seemed quite intelligent, behave in ways that seemed quite strange. It sometimes made them very angry, and it sometimes made them very sad, and it sometimes made them very rude to other people, and it sometimes even made them hit other people, just because someone they had never met, who was wearing a T-shirt in a different colour to the one they liked, had kicked a ball in a net. And it's quite boring being with men who behave like this, and who, when you explain to them that they shouldn't be upset, because the men who did or didn't get the ball in the net are only there because they're paid an awful lot of money and if someone can find more money they can be swapped for a better model, get cross.

But then on Monday, I switched on the telly and I discovered that I was wrong. Football is absolutely gripping. Football, it turns out, is run by a group of ugly old men who look very like the villains in James Bond. They sit round a big table in a big glass building in lovely countryside in Switzerland, and they think up ways to make world leaders look silly, so they make lists of things that the world leaders must do, like suspend some workers' rights, or make new laws to protect sponsors, if they want to have a lot of football matches in their country. Sometimes, the ugly men get bored and then one of them might think of doing something like selling lots of tickets on the black market to make a bit of extra money, or maybe taking a big bribe. They don't seem to be very nice because when the man who made the film asked about bribes, and the black market, they were very rude. And the president of the organisation, who looked as if his second favourite thing, after making world leaders look silly, was chopping up babies, said that he was "not pleased" that people kept talking about bribes because it wasn't "very fair".

It was very exciting to watch, and much better than TV talent shows, because no one was pretending to have any talent, and they didn't, but it was a bit embarrassing to see the Deputy Prime Minister, who I think would rather be at an opera than at a football match, say that the British "bid" for the old men's attention was "unbeatable". It was embarrassing to hear the Prime Minister, who pretended to like football when he was watching a match with Angela Merkel in July, and to look upset when "England" lost, but you could tell from his face that he wasn't really, say so, too, and also when he said on telly yesterday that he was putting 110 per cent of his effort on the "bid" to the rude old men.

I wondered if perhaps he hadn't seen the exciting programme, but I did think that if you were that important then you might have someone to tell you about it, and that if they had, you probably wouldn't want to see the rude old men again, and you definitely wouldn't fly out to Switzerland specially to do that, and you definitely wouldn't put 110 per cent of your effort on the trip when you had quite a lot of other things to worry about. I could understand that if the men were nice, and you thought that having a lot of football matches would make your country richer, then you might want to put up with the noise and mess and fuss and boredom and bugles, or whatever you'd have to have instead of vuvuzelas, but the programme said that Holland, which hasn't just given £7bn it said it didn't have to help a country in a pickle, had done the sums and thought that having the football matches would leave it about €150m worse off.

And the men aren't nice. The men, in fact, are as nice as Hamid Karzai, and Vladimir Putin, and Kim Il-Sung, and all the other people who American diplomats said were horrible, which was why Hillary Clinton had to say sorry on Monday night, though she probably thought they were, too. You can see why you'd have to talk to Hamid Karzai, if you'd decided to fight a war in his country and were worried that your soldiers were dying so fast that they might run out, and you can see why you'd have to talk to men who had nuclear bombs, and liked showing off, and might one day want to show off by firing a nuclear bomb at you, but it's very, very, very hard to see why you'd want to talk to a bunch of ugly, greedy, nasty, old men about something that's only a game.;