Over the last few weeks, it has come to my attention that a ball kicking competition has been captivating many people all around the UK. Normally this sort of event completely passes me by as I have absolutely no interest in football whatsoever. For me the game of football is nothing more than a bunch of almost grown men kicking a bag of wind around a field. I’m sure it requires some skill and from what I can gather does pay rather handsomely to anyone able to connect their feet with the aforementioned ball.
However, this year, mostly influenced by my partner Anne-Marie Humphries, I have found myself watching England play at the World Cup in Qatar. Fortunately, to avoid being subjected to many hours of football, the BBC provide short highlights of the other games, so you can just watch the interesting bits without all the dull nonsense.
I’ve never been particularly sporty. At school, football (or soccer as it was known) was deemed a girls sport. At Cranleigh, there was a choice of Rugby in the Michaelmas term, Hockey in the Spring and Cricket in the Summer. However, I wasn’t any good at those sports either, so when I wasn’t practicing the organ in the school chapel, I took myself off to the golf course. Whilst no expert, I can at least swing the bat and (usually) make contact with the little white ball. Sometimes it even goes vaguely in the same direction as I was intending. After a few hits with the stick, the little ball is then coerced into a small hole not that much bigger than the ball itself.
And this is what I don’t quite understand about football. A golf ball has to be directed into a hole which is only a few centimetres bigger than the ball. Whilst I am not very good at this, plenty of professional players are. Logically therefore, when you compare the size of the football with the net it has to be directed into, this should be considerably easier. In relative terms, it would be a bit like trying to get a golf ball into a hole the size of the entire green! Even I might manage that on occasion. Despite this, from what I have seen in Qatar, a lot of professional, highly paid footballers seem better at getting the ball to hit the frame of the goal or indeed missing it entirely. This is despite the diameter of a football being 8.66 inches and the goal being 24 feet wide.
Of course people who think they understand the game of football, will now be shouting at their screens to remind me that in football there is this thing called a goalkeeper who is meant to get in the way. But this is also a nonsense, because the golf hole comes with a flag stuck in it which serves just about the same purpose. And from what I have seen of the current World Cup shenanigans, the majority of goalkeepers aren’t actually that good at stopping the ball going into the net anyway!
As a professional musician, I have spent my life being ridiculed by sporty people. Certainly at school I came in for a lot of abuse for not being at all sporty. And that’s fair enough. I suspect that I know about as much about sport as Cristiano Ronaldo knows about the interior workings of the pipe organ. To be honest the only reason why I left Cranleigh alive was because by chance in my first year I was selected to pay in an Inter House Hockey Competition. The only reason I was selected is that the brief for the team was one person from each year plus a girl who was not in any other sporting team.
Luckily for me, the rest of my ‘non sporting’ team was made up of people who actually understood how hockey worked and that in fact it was not the same as golf with a different bat. I was put in goal defence, but due to the skill of the others on my team I don’t think the ball ever came within 30 feet of me. As a consequence, my house won this little sporting event which in turn draped me in my ‘house colours’. Despite not really doing much in any of the five or so matches we played, having a different badge attached to my blazer which had (by some miracle) been won participating in a sporting event, was just enough to save me from the potentially life threatening dangers which were a consequence of bullying at a public school in the 1980s and 90s!
And so I conclude that sport does have some advantages and I am delighted therefore that England are progressing well (so far!) in the Football World Cup. When England play France tomorrow, I will be at a wedding doing my thing with Anne-Marie as one half of JAM Duo. It will be interesting to see how an England World Cup match integrates (or not!) with a wedding in Somerset.