The prospect of going to a football match would fill me with the same sense of deep and dark foreboding which I would feel before walking into a pop concert or a discotheque. Fortunately, I have never actually been to a football match or indeed a pop concert and it’s a very long time since I’ve been to a discotheque. That is good news for those who do, given my dancing always resembled that of an untethered windsock in a hurricane grade wind tunnel. Grateful girls with hurty toes celebrated my dancing retirement with rather less grace than one might have wished for.
Nonetheless, time to wish Gareth Southgate and his young team the very best of good fortune in their forthcoming semi-final. I have warmed to them for their team spirit, their youthful enthusiasm, their modesty and the dignity with which Mr Southgate has conducted himself. Whatever the result, he alone has uprated how non-football fans like me view the national team. There is I think, quite apart from the predictable hype and media nonsense, a growing respect for the manager and players from outside the football universe because of their grounded humility. It is, actually, refreshing.
Looking in from the cheap seats though, the World Cup has been disappointing. I only dip in every four years for the big matches but there haven't really been any. My favourites are the classics like Germany v Holland and Italy v Brazil but we haven’t seen many and those that have happened have been woeful. Although the cheating, thuggish clowns from South America kept me entertained for a wee while, the ball in the back of the net stuff has underwhelmed. The South Americans, of course, deserve to be on the plane home and actually, I would leave the lot of them there to stew for the next eight years. We must blame weak referees and FIFA for the cynical excesses of those players. The referees obviously operate on the same basis as do our own Home Office on what is an “acceptable level of violence.” Only when things get really bad do the yellow cards come out. Nigel Owens would grip these comedians in the first two minutes and rift them for their unsporting off the ball fouls. I can only assume that FIFA has told the referees, “keep order but do not, under any circumstances, red card anyone and spoil the spectacle unless you have absolutely no choice. We need sporting contests because we need the money.”
The genuine idiots of the tournament though, and you could hammer six-inch nails into their foreheads and it wouldn’t make any difference, are the banal television commentators. They know no more about football than do I. They excel in reducing sporting commentary down to a level which my Labradors could understand (although that's a tad unfair on the Labradors). Football must be the only sport where so much is said yet so little is communicated. Given the television companies spend hundreds of millions on the rights it is ridiculous not to have competent commentary. I would pay to have the Test Match Special team on the case or any rugby or even tennis commentators.... yes, even Stuart Barnes.
Still, I shall be there with the rest of the nation in front of the box tonight with my bobble hat and wooden rattle. While the Germans have let us down by missing an appointment with destiny for Saturday's final, a game against the French does have a certain historical elegance to it. The joy of the whole thing is that were England to win, the soft backbones of some Cabinet members and the Prime Minister with regard to Brexit will be immeasurably stiffened, such will be the uplift in pride throughout the country. It may though, not do much for the Union. Support for the SNP will, unfortunately, be positively correlated to England's success.