Apparently Argentina has got messy…?

A Dummies View of the World Cup

I enjoy a bit of sport as much as the next person; there is nothing better than willing your favourite team to victory. If you were playing yourself, you would feel tired and at times defeated, but from your vantage point at the sofa, you have no weaknesses or fatigue. You are the master and the king of sport. You would have scored where they missed and your defence would have remained strong when theirs slipped. But I am not going to lie to you; I am no expert when it comes to football. Despite all the stereotypes, I do vaguely understand the offside rule (I think we called it goal loitering at school), but I have no idea about the tactics or strategy involved in the game, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the occasion.

As with any kind of national event, our office is running a sweepstake; the Grand National, Wimbledon, who killed Archie Mitchell… you name it and we’ve done a sweepstake for it. However, one particular member of staff *cough* Charlotte *cough* is incredibly lucky and wins every single time, so we tried to make it fairer by picking a couple of teams each and winning money for first, second and most excitingly, the most goals conceded in the group stage.

To be English is a curious thing; across the world, people are taught to be competitive and to make the most of themselves, but the English seem to have a strange pride in our own failure. I’ve mentioned them before and no doubt, I’ll do it again, but the Top Gear boys epitomize this. Unlike our foreign counterparts, like the Aussies and the Germans, we are quite happy to have had fun and winning makes it all the better. I expect some of the best Aussie athletes left Beijing in 2008 gutted that they only won the bronze medal, whereas the Brit went home delighted to have a bit of a suntan and met loads of great people. I’d like to say that we know the value of fair play and as such, we are happy to have taken part. But I think it’s more likely that we protect ourselves a little from the imminent failure by not being seen to be bothered by losing. I’m the same with board games and pool; if I don’t think I can win, I will put all my efforts into making it harder for the other side to win.

There are certain people who we really don’t like to see winning. Sometimes this depends on the sport; in cricket, we detest the Aussies. (I refer you to Jiggery Pokery- – for full proof of that.) In eventing, we hate the Germans beating us and in rugby it’s the Scottish. Actually, as a country we are quite hateful. As a small island nation, we are like little Jack Russell Terriers, knowing that we are vulnerable, so jumping in first. There are two nations that we particularly hate seeing win anything and by the luck of the draw, I pulled them out in the sweepstake; France and the USA. My third team was South Korea, which I am not altogether convinced is going to be a winner.

Having drawn my teams, I have busied myself with decorating the sweepstake board in true English spirit; I have covered the USA in a very large oil stain and as for the French, well there are white flags, monkeys and cheese, so I think that all the bases are covered. I daren’t even start on Korea. As for the games, well I will not religiously watch them. I will watch the England matches, but I have to say the most exciting element of them is the fact we can finish work early to catch the matches. Now that is a way that sport really can benefit everyone. We can all finish work early and do what the Brits do best; run down to the pub and get obliterated, which my local is encouraging by offering free drinks for every England goal scored.

My favourite World Cup moment so far happened today when a colleague of mine was foolish enough to leave his car (complete with England flags flying proudly in the breeze) at work to go out for the afternoon. So I did the only thing that was right and fair and just. I snuck outside and pilfered the flags from the car and ran as fast as my legs would carry me back to the office. The menfolk at work tried to convince us that it was mean, cruel and unfair, especially as our first match was tomorrow, but we have done it anyway. As a compromise, we have hung them from our second storey windows so that he knows no one has stolen them. I know that I don’t celebrate the football in the way it is intended, but I struggle to celebrate sportsmen who are paid hundreds of times more than anyone of equal standing in any other sport and I can’t really think why. The World Cup being in South Africa is a little like the Beijing Olympics in that the local community is so impoverished and has probably been destroyed to make way for these millionaires to kick a ball around and so I can’t take it too seriously, but don’t you worry I intend to have plenty of fun along the way. I will watch the matches and get as involved as every sofa expert, but it won’t stop me from poking fun out of my colleagues for taking it all a little too seriously.