It’s a strange time to be someone who has no interest in football. I only really became aware that the World Cup had begun when I drew Algeria in the Monocle office sweepstake.
Football is the internationally acknowledged shorthand for small talk among men, a language I’ve never been able to speak a word of. My family is filled with artists, authors and musicians – none of whom have shown any interest in sport beyond leaving school.
I’ve been to two football matches in my life, seen a few on TV and found they all left me pretty cold. I’m not totally Pooterish and can see the skill involved but having no allegiance to any team – regional or national – will always mean the end result is just meaningless to me.
I can talk music forever, bore you on who composed what and when, stun you with the name and bio of the most obscure of character actors and hit you with film trivia until you’ve got your coat on and are pointing apologetically at your watch. But beyond the key players who have crossed over into mainstream fame I couldn’t tell you who’s who.
In London right now, prime theatre seats and restaurant reservations have never been so easy to get. The streets are strangely silent in the evening, punctuated by cheers or sighs of disappointment emanating from the pubs.
The Olympics were a quite different story. The variety of sports, the sense of the world’s eyes focused on my home town; it was impossible not to get swept up in London’s love-in, from the first note of Underworld’s score to the last drop of David Arnold’s closing music (I did warn you). But this World Cup, with the pitiful behaviour of some of the key players – not to mention Fifa’s machinations – has left me unmoved.
I was out at a restaurant this week when word trickled through from the table next to us about the 7 - 1 drubbing Brazil were taking at the feet of Germany. Even as someone who couldn’t tell Robben from Ronaldo I could sense this was an upset of epic proportions. For both teams to get to this stage and end up with a result resembling a Sunday afternoon fixture in the park could only mean something had gone badly wrong. Monocle’s resident Brazilians were dignified in defeat but clearly broken-hearted the day after. A punch on the shoulder and an “It’s only a game” reassurance didn’t console them, I can report.
I’ll leave my football-loving colleagues to pontificate further on the soft-power ramifications of Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup. As long as Algeria are still riding high, I’m happy.
Paul Noble is a producer for Monocle 24.