Saturday 21 April 2018

Colm Tobin: 21st Century Man - becoming a World Cup loon

From fairweather footie fan to world cup loon, is age to blame?

RTÉ sport presenter Bill O'Herlihy alongside RTÉ soccer pundits and former Republic of Ireland internationals John Giles and Eamon Dunphy
RTÉ sport presenter Bill O'Herlihy alongside RTÉ soccer pundits and former Republic of Ireland internationals John Giles and Eamon Dunphy

Colm Tobin

World Cups are like Dublin buses — you’re waiting four years for one to come along and then it just kind of whizzes past you before you really have a chance to get into it. So, it’s probably important to soak up every moment while you can.

Now first, an admission — I’m a fairly fairweather football fan. I grew up supporting Manchester United in the 1980’s when they were rubbish. And once they started to win all around them in the 1990’s, I just got a bit bored. I dunno, after a while it just felt like supporting McDonalds or something. And then there’s FIFA, an organisation so very corrupt and distasteful it makes Irish politics look ethical by comparison.

But even I can easily count out my life in World Cups:

Spain ‘82 — Dad, why don’t Ireland have a football team?

Mexico ‘86 — The Hand Of God! Ha ha ha!

Italia ‘90 — Wow! Ireland! The new Brazil!

USA ‘94 — Actually, we’re not really the new Brazil. Scoops?

France ‘98 — No real memories (college).

Korea Japan ‘02— Civil war! Justice for Keano! At last, socially acceptable to drink before 8am!

Germany ‘06 — Ah Jaysus, Zizou...

South Africa ‘10 — Meh.

But unlike Ireland in Saipan, I’ve never felt more prepared for a World Cup. I’m primed, hungry, ready for action. The barbeque is all fired up. All traces of fruit and vegetables have been removed from the premises and destroyed. I’ve stockpiled enough craft beers to fuel a Pogues reunion tour. And all distracting weekend sojourns out of Dublin have received a five-week ban. This is most definitely ON.

Maybe it’s my age. See, there are very few occasions in the life of a thirtysomething when it is acceptable to basically behave like an idiot for such a prolonged period. For most people at this time of life, it’s all about home insurance comparison sites, removing bodily hair from the most unexpected places and basically planning for your death. But, every four years, the World Cup comes along and makes it ok to become sort of infantilised, at least for the period of a month. It’s perfectly okay to wear outsized bermuda shorts. It’s completely acceptable to engage in mild bouts of casual racism like “Those Japanese lads look and play like computer game avatars. Ha ha!” And it’s absolutely grand to resort to extended periods of ape-like grunting in the corner of the living room for absolutely no reason. I often think of the World Cup as some sort of large-scale, international mid-life crisis release valve, with lots of product placement. It’s probably why we don’t have so many wars anymore or quite possibly why we could do with a big one.

But it’s not all plain sailing either. Even after a fortnight, I have to admit that my stamina is seriously being called into question. I’m beginning to flag heavily, not unlike Steven Gerrard against Uruguay. Sure, the football has been brilliant but then there’s all the extra-curricular, first-world-problem stuff...

First of all, there are only so many craft beers you can taste and waffle on and on and on about with your friends.

“Well, this one’s got an interesting after-taste — there are real hoppy overtones...”

“Yeah nice. What’s it called?”

“Stoat’s Liver. What do you think?”

“I’ve gone blind in my left eye”.

Secondly, my diet in general is getting out of hand. Sure, there might be onions and sage in that sausage, but it is still, ultimately, a sausage. And that’s number fifteen this week, you absolute pig. To be honest, I’ve become so sick and tired of red meat I’ve started sneakily distributing burger mince onto the road outside my house through holes in my trouser pockets.

And, finally I’ve had just about enough face time with Eamon Dunphy for one year. Don’t get me wrong, I find the man vastly entertaining. But something is worryingly off kilter when I’ve seen more of him in June than I have my own family. And last night he even appeared to me in a dream and called me a spoofer. Enough.

So, as the weeks go, I’m beginning to take a step back. It becomes less vital to see every last group game. Honduras v Ecuador? I think I’ll pass thanks. Come enjoy our Pig On A Spit for the Colombia match? Cheers, maybe next time. But the big World Cup Final party in July at your place? I’m totally there...

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent

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