Listen to this article
As millions across the world prepare to enjoy the World Cup, one group is looking forward to the “festival of football” with particular relish. These are the true World Cup bores; not the ones who can drone on about Paraguay’s centre half or how many goals England will need against Trinidad to avoid meeting Brazil in the semi-finals; but the self-styled footie-phobes who seize the chance to parade their individualism by declaiming their hatred of the game.
While much of the population skips work, slurps Bud and whitters on about Costa Rica’s unconventional sweeper system, the true World Cup bore enjoys equally animated conversation, missing no chance to declare his hatred for football and voice impatience for it all to be over.
His lounge is festooned with supplements and articles on “how to avoid the World Cup” – cuttings that proclaim both his lofty individuality and the lack of imagination which needs help arriving at such outré alternatives as going for a walk or reading a book. “Why not try Proust? He should get you through to the semi-finals at least? – or the Olympics if you are a slow reader.”
In England such characters are distinguished by their oft-stated delight at the injury to the country’s star striker, Wayne Rooney, hoping it portends an early exit for the team. They will tell you they have booked theatre tickets for the day of the final and are buying a Sony Bravia – but only after the tournament ends.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with being uninterested in the World Cup. What can not be borne are those who feel the need to speak out. For it is not the sign of some modern-day Horatio, heroically holding the bridge against the hordes of beery philistines. It is showboating one’s cultural superiority – proclaiming oneself an unintimidated member of the elite, unswayed by low mob passions.
Other such “tells” include stressing that one has never read the Da Vinci Code, never watched Big Brother and lamenting the low literary standards in Harry Potter.
The World Cup at least offers a reprieve from Da Vinci Code droners. It has been all but impossible to read a review of the film in any serious publication that did not devote substantial space to showing how the critic had either a) never read the book, or b) been forced to read the book while stranded at Skiathos airport and had wanted to rip out his own eyes rather than turn another page. It was as if the only issue was ensuring the readers grasped the reviewers’ erudition.
There is no happy solution to this. For this is a true moral blight: the loss of the ability to suffer in silence; the need to parade one’s higher consciousness. Camus may have learnt all he knew of morality and obligations from football; it seems the culture bores learnt all they know of decorum from that other great French philosopher, Eric Cantona.
To borrow a chant from the fans – it is time it all went quiet over there.
The writer is the FT’s news editor
Get alerts on World when a new story is published