Sunday, June 11, 2006

A load of balls

*First published on June 2, 2006.

IT IS with a heavy heart that I have realised we are now in the month of June.

As the days pass, the sense of impending doom and dread I feel grows stronger and stronger. This is the month I have dreaded all year- the World Cup is almost upon us.
In precisely seven days time my husband, my male relatives and the lion share of my male colleagues will morph into football obsessed yahoos who will become incapable of discussing anything other than the qualifiers between the Ivory Coast and Serbia.
This delightful experience will last a joyless month, during which time I will have to fight with himself for use of the remote control- which I imagine will be a pointless exercise anyway as there will be nothing on the TV remotely non-related to the footie.
There will be no escaping it. Matches will be played at all hours of the day and when the matches aren't actually on there will be pre-match coverage and the post-match coverage and the between match coverage.
Nothing will be sacred. They will move Coronation Street and EastEnders to accommodate the matches. (I am physically restraining my hands here from typing bad words to express my displeasure. I realise that is neither big nor clever and I apologise for my thoughts).
To add insult to injury even the priests are in on the act- and worse still they support England!
As you may have guessed I'm not a ladette. The astute among you may realise that I don't care for football. The closest I've got to watching a match in recent years is checking out the latest series of 'Footballers' Wives'.
I may have feigned an interest if Ireland had managed to qualify. I'm pretty sure that if the boys in green had made it to Germany (and yes, I did have to ask my colleagues if that was right) I would have shown some enthusiasm just as I have done in the past, when I joined the throngs of people watching the big screens in Squires in 1994 when Jackie's Army stormed the USA (and yes, I had to ask that too).
I'd have found a player I fancied and ogled his legs. I'd have gone to the pub with my friends and waved a cheap agus nasty plastic Irish flag around and sang a resounding chorus of "Ole, ole, ole, ole"- but in the absence of a national duty to watch the football, I would love to ignore it entirely.

Tense month
Unfortunately I am married to an English man. You may realise that sets the scene for a very tense month in the Allan household.
It's not that I hate the English football team. I'm sure some of them are fine footballers in their own rights. What I hate, however, is the jingoistic, self satisfied smugness that particular nation sees fit to adopt if they win a match.
They go overboard with the news coverage, the songs, the flags, the Union Jack boxer shorts and (yes, I've seen this) toddlers carted about in special edition St. George's Cross buggies.
It's galling. It is not like they've found the cure for cancer or caught Osama Bin Laden shopping for Weetabix in Tesco. One man who has spent his whole life kicking balls around has simply managed to kick another ball into a net the size of your average bus. Oh, some men chased him while he did it. Whoopee! Hardly cause for national celebration now, is it?
Himself, of course, is very excited. He loves the World Cup. He is is giddily excited about being able to share the World Cup with his son for the first time. They will bond over it, as I sit with a face like thunder in the next room- excluded entirely from my family unit.
I should say I'm lucky most of the time. Himself is not a mad football supporter, so for three years out of four I can more or less pretend the blasted sport doesn't exist- but there is a strange mist that descends on him around the time of the World Cup that changes everything.
He becomes an English version of Homer Simpson, who melds into the sofa, can of beer in one hand, cheering and jeering at the footie and nodding at the sage words of Gary Lineker as if he was given said words on tablets of stone from on high.
If he gets together with his best mate Chris, we have a real life version of 'Men Behaving Badly' played out in our living room. I remember France 1994 being particularly traumatic on this front. The two of them dragged a cool box, filled with ice, into the living room for each major match and drank their way through the Ivory Coast's supply of cheap and nasty beer.
For four solid weeks I gave up on the notion of getting any sensible conversation out of him. There was no point. Like all strong women, I know when I am beat.
I'm hoping the eight years between then and now will have mellowed and matured my other half and that his threats to train the wee man to fetch the beer from the fridge for him are, indeed, just idle threats.
I'm stocking up on a selection of the finest Chick-Lit books, fine wines and soppy DVDs and I'm going to lock myself into my room to escape the nonsense. Hopefully by the time 2010 comes along (which will be in South Africa- and yes, I had to check) I'll have a little girl to bond with and the men can get on with it themselves.

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