Belfast Telegraph

Why it’s time to blow whistle on World Cup bores

By Gail Walker

Five days into it and already I've had enough. The World Cup is a big, fat, titanic bore. And, like any bore, it goes out of its way to get your attention. In fact, it insists on it.

Yes, I know I’ll be accused of girly incomprehension at the intricacies of the offside rule or why a man paid a zillion pounds a week for kicking a ball can't do precisely that when it, you know, matters.

But it’s not even the particular horrors of this year's tourney: the township jive soundtracks while Gaby Yorath warbles on about the ‘big one', the horns which drown out any natural crowd noise and Andy Townsend.

No, at the root of the boredom is the sheer ubiquitousness of it. Real life is on hold for four long weeks. Or, put it another way, 64 matches. And television is covering every kick, every substitution, every grimace of the manager's face. Plus, there’s Andy Townsend (for ‘Andy Townsend' read any pundit, they're all interchangeable) wittering on before during and after the ‘Big One' (for which read South Korea vs Greece).

As befitting the greatest event in the world, the game itself no longer lasts 90 minutes. Oh no, that's far too mundane. Now it’s like a British version of the American Superbowl — it’s nigh on three hours before Gary Lineker wishes us goodnight from a surprisingly chilly Jo'berg.

If the match involves England, you're probably looking at five hours in a minor circle of hell. That's a hell of a lot of Adrian Chiles — tie or no tie.

And if it's not the actual football, it's all the sidebars thrown up by the ‘beautiful game' (Algeria vs Slovenia — live). Last week — even before a ball was kicked — we’d a ‘national debate' about whether it's ok for Wayne Rooney to tell a referee to ‘F**k off'. Expect many more ishoos before the Jules Remy (still gleaming) is hoisted into the air (probably by foreign hands).

You can turn off your TV but you can't turn off the world. Two national TV stations, two radio stations (Five Live and TalkSport), vast chunks of newspapers, all given over to it. Even if you're watching Corrie (two hours later than normal due to the latest ‘Big One' — Australia vs Ghana) you run the risk of catching that ‘If Carlsberg Did Team Talks' ad — World Cup concentrate, just add big man tears.

Alleged English icons (Stuart ‘Psycho' Pearce anybody?) deliver a mulch of sub-Agincourt cliches, loaded with a loathing of Johnny Foreigner (apparently the whole world can't wait to dump England out and rub our noses in a steaming pile of failure). Plus there’s the ‘We can do it if we only believe in the dream’ stuff. Yes, the ticket to World Cup glory — xenophobia and self-help gibberish.

Worse, as the soundtrack dims, we’re urged (complete with little catch in the voice) to do it ‘For Bobby' (Robson) — and there, bathed in a heavenly glow of light is a British lion and the spectre of Bobby Moore.

Or you can watch a fairly hefty John Barnes (channelling the spirit of a thin John Barnes) reprising the England 90 World in Motion video (complete with Keith Allen lookalike). Three Lions on our Mars, you know we can't go wrong? What exactly does that mean, John?

On and on it goes. Even my Yahoo account profile has an England flag in the corner. Big money, schmaltz and ersatz male bonding and — of course, at the centre of it all — ‘the game'. Blokeyness everywhere.

All of it portentous, pretentious ... and nigh-on endless. It's only football, for goodness sake.

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