Stephen McGinty: World Cup's always a bit of an own-goal experience for me

FOOTBALL and I have been on nodding terms for many years. Like distant relatives we have a fondness for each other, one preserved by rarely meeting. I find the idea of football – the tension, the camaraderie, the highs, the lows, the nil-nil draws – deeply attractive. It's the actual reality with which I have a problem.

The last time I saw Scotland play at Hampden my nephew, Charlie, leaned over and said: "Scotland are the ones in blue". Even as a child, when my legendary cat-like agility as a goalkeeper earned me the man-of-the-match award when our team, Whitecrook FC, played Celtic Boys Club (we lost 10-1), I preferred to watch a movie than a match.

This dilemma reached a crisis point during the 1982 World Cup when a scheduling error placed Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, a classic in the bright eyes of any self-respecting ten-year-old, in direct competition with Scotland v Russia, the final crunch game that could see our national team through to the hallowed "second round". What's a boy to do, but lie in front of the fire, lost in the raptures of a stop-motion sabre toothed tiger and the violent actions of swarthy heroes wielding curved scimitars? Unfortunately it was this choice that fractured the crucial father-son football relationship. When I finally skulked into the next room where he had been watching Scotland's chances slowly slip away, I could sense his disappointment.

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Although the non-football fan gains huge swathes of time others spend in pursuit of their favourite team, you lose the easy camaraderie of the devoted. Then there is the common ice-breaker discussion on the merits of this player or that. The life of the non-football fan can be a lonely one. At times I am genuinely jealous of football fans. The idea you can stitch your emotions, like a number on a football jersey, to a team and then see them carried up to great heights is deeply appealing. (We'll draw a veil over the depths of relegation blues.)

So what exactly does the World Cup mean to me? Well, er, very little. I know it's on in South Africa. I know Scotland didn't make the cut and that there is the usual discussion of whom to support with the general attitude that it should be ABE – Anyone But England. The twisted irony is that, should I find myself actually watching an England game, I would happily support them, on the grounds that they are part of the United Kingdom and victory would, in my opinion, be good for Britain. I know, however, that this is a controversial view and that the general view in Scotland is that England holding aloft the World Cup would make our neighbours insufferable. Yet I also appreciate that my total lack of interest in football makes my "support" of questionable value.

I had hoped that the advent of 3D TV would serve to re-ignite the pilot light and bring any enthusiasm frozen since childhood back on the boil. The problem was, when I went to a preview of Sky's new system a few months back, the most exciting scenes were not bone-crunching tackles or volleys into the net, but mundane shots of the crowd. Instead of admiring a particular pass, I couldn't wait for the camera to pan back to people shuffling in the crowd whose Bovril I felt like I could reach out and borrow. I felt like the commentary should be inverted: "look another 40-yard shot into the right-hand corner…OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE MAN IN THE CROWD HE'S TAKEN OFF HIS CAP AND YOU CAN ALMOST COMB HIS HAIR...IT'S INCREDIBLE."

So what am I supposed to do for the next four weeks? Frankly the options are a little sexist, with only Sex and the City 2 in the cinemas. Still, at least I'm in good company, David Mitchell, the comedian, doesn't like football either. I think I'll give him a ring.

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