Obviously, I'd seen football
before - mainly round me Nana's on a Sunday afternoon (I supported
QPR at first, because their shirt was just like me favourite mug),
and we'd watch Star Soccer and bet 5p on the result (which
she always won, because I didn't know they were highlights of Saturday's
games, the cow). But this was different. It was on a weekday, it
was live, I'd never heard of any of the players, there were klaxons
going off everywhere, and it was skill.
Johan Cruyff gets the
ball in the left-hand corner of Sweden's half, with his back to
goal, hounded by a defender. All of a sudden, when it seems he's
about to pass it back, he whangs his leg around like James Brown
slipping on dog shit, swivels his entire body the same way, and
pegs it away from the defender for a cross as the crowd, the commentator,
and my good self goes absolutely fucking berserk at what
they'd just seen. (They don't score, but it doesn't matter - it
becomes known as the Cruyff Turn and is one of the most legendary
moments in all of sports history)
"MAM! MAM! LOOK
AT HIM!" I scream, running into the kitchen, in a state of
absolute rapture and glee. "You can turn that shit off, you
know your Dad'll want to watch fuckin' Kojak when he gets home"
says me Mam, and she makes me have me weekly bath in the sink.
Late evening, Saturday
June 3rd, 1978. Rivers
Of Babylon by Boney M is No.1. I hate that song, me little sister
plays it all the fucking time. But I'd been waiting for this night
for ages, as it's Scotland's first game and I've decided to support
them, as Forest players like Archie Gemmill and John Robertson are
playing for them, and their manager Ally McLeod keeps saying they're
going to win. Mam and Dad are at the pub, and the baby-sitter's
too busy trying to stop some mong in a tank top from getting his
hand down her bra that she doesn't really need yet to stop me watching
Scotland v Peru.
All year, I have been
waiting for this - boring the arse off me Dad about Italy v Argentina,
colouring in football strips at junior school in the strips of all
16 teams, and ripping out any picture of Kenny Dalglish and Don
Masson out of the paper and trying to cover all of me Superman wallpaper
Scotland score in the
19th minute and are cruising, and I start writing 'JOE JORDAN IS
SKILL' on my arms with a felt tip pen, but then Peru equalise just
before half time, and then Don Masson misses a penno, Teofilo Cubillas
scores twice with two screaming long-range shots, and Scotland are
made to look absolute cunts. By the time Mam and Dad come home with
the chips, I am inconsolable, taking me shorts off and pulling them
over me head so no-one can see that I'm crying.
Then I see Scotland fans
going mental and throwing their shirts on the pitch in disgust,
and I remember that time in me Grandpa's pub the previous summer
when Scotland beat England and all these blokes in tartan were getting
well lairy - and one of 'em beat the shit out of his girlfriend
outside our car while me Mam tried to cover me eyes - and I was
glad they lost.
Just after school,
Monday July 5th, 1982. Happy Talk by Captain Sensible
is No.1 (fucking hell, why are the charts always shit during the
World Cup?) I'm pegged out on a sofa, well into a moody teenage
phase that has even turned me against footy, as I get sick of going
to games and running the risk of getting a Stanley knife in me face.
England are in the World Cup for the first time I can remember,
but I really can't be arsed with it. I can't even be bothered to
go upstairs and have another wank whilst looking at pictures of
the bird in Bucks Fizz who wasn't Cheryl Baker, so I just lie there
and watch Italy v Brazil. Which is quite fortunate, seeing as it
turns out to be one of the best games ever.
Brazil only need a draw
to get to the semis, but Italy pull a famous victory out of their
arses - and when Paulo Rossi - who only a year before was banned
from Italian football for match-rigging - caps a titanic battle
by scoring a hat-trick and running away like an extra in Predator,
I leap off the sofa and stove me head in on a warming pan me Mam
has nailed to the wall in an attempt to make our living room look
like an Irish theme pub.
Not only is it the moment
that makes me love footy again, it's the only time I ever display
any form of spontaneous physical exertion in my teenage years, apart
from that time when me Dad tried to show me how hard our Rex was
by pulling a sheepskin rug over him and pretending to be a sheep,
and the dog mounted his head and skullfucked him whilst I rolled
on the floor screaming like Janis Joplin with piles.
June 22nd, 1986. Spirit In The Sky by Doctor And The
Medics was No.1 (see what I mean?). I'm pissing about in college
and have started drinking in pubs, and am in me local watching England
v Argentina in the quarter-final. We only had a war with them four
years previous, so the atmosphere is fucking oppressive. There's
a fat bloke next to me who keeps screaming "BELGRAAANOOOO!"
every time Argentina get the ball. And then Diego Maradona, possibly
the greatest footballer in the world and definitelythe biggest
hate figure, flips the ball with his hand over Peter Shilton for
the first goal.
Now, up until that time,
I'd seen aggro at the football. I'd seen a twat from Middlesborough
throw a smoke canister over the roof of a stand so it rolled over
the other side and hit a Forest player. I'd seen a phalanx of police
horses charging over Trent Bridge to get stuck into a load of Liverpool
fans. I'd been barricaded into a shop and watched Man United fans
rip Arkwright Street to pieces. I'd even been forced to climb the
fence during a mass brawl between Forest and West Ham, during which
I'd fallen over and got me foot caught in the net, which me family
saw the next day on the telly and battered me. But this is
taking it to the next level - it's like the Five Minute's Hate in
1984. "YOU FOOKING CHEATING BASTARRRRRRDDD! FUCKING CUNTING
ARGIES!" bellows, well, everyone. At a telly.
Four minutes later, Maradona
rubs it in with a run from the halfway line that cuts through England
like that Marcus Allen touchdown in that Super Bowl game against
the Redskins. It is, without question, the Goal Of The Century.
The entire pub falls silent in awe at such genius. For about five
seconds. Then the fat bloke primal-screams "OH, LOSE ANOTHER
WARRRR, YOU FOOKING CHIP PAN-HEADED CUUUUUNNNNNNNNTTTTTTTT!"
and the pub goes absolutely berserk. I leave before the police
The next day, Maradona
announces in a press conference that his first goal was scored by
the 'Hand of God'. Mild-mannered pundit TV Bob Wilson responds by
saying that if he said that to his face, he'd be getting the Fist
of Bob. And then me best mate calls for me wearing a T-shirt that
has been selling like shit of a shovel at the local market. It reads
"YOU'VE GOT TO 'HAND' IT TO ARGENTINA - THEY REALLY ARE CHEATING
time, Wednesday July 4th, 1990. Sacrifice
by Elton John is No.1 (Fucking hell). And - shamefully - I am in
a pub that has no telly, listening to the final moments of the semi-final
between England and Germany whilst on a date with an absolute sort
I have been pursuing for months.
During the day I have
a shitty job in a factory, humping bits of wood about for people
called Dizza-Dazza, Ratboy, and Chinny, and the only thing that
has stopped me from picking up a bolt gun and aiming it between
my eyes is the World Cup. It's like being at school again - everyone
talks about football and has wallcharts over their workbenches.
At dinnertime, the entire factory goes in the car park for a 70-a-side
game, packed with goalhanging, greedy dribbling, outrageous clogging
and grown men shouting "LACATOUCHE!" and "BAGGIOOOO!
GOOOOOAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!" whilst lumping the ball through a
Portakabin window. And at knocking-off time, everyone drives like
maniacs to get home for kick-off.
It's the best World Cup
for years, because England have finally got their shit together
and look set for meeting Argentina in the final if they can get
past the Germans - but I mistakenly arrange a date with this bird.
Yeah, so maybe she's impressed that I'm not enslaved to 22 blokes
kicking a ball about, but the sad fact is...I am. So when
I can stand no more, I ask the barman to put the radio on, and shitting
hell fire, I've missed the best England game of my entire lifetime.
I've missed Gazza crying because he was suspended for the next game,
Germany getting a jammy goal, England clawing one back, and two
shots that hit the post in extra time.
As the penalties begin,
we start holding hands over the table and getting closer. When Peter
Shilton nearly saves one, she almost pulls me right over the table
and we look into each other eyes and I know I've got her. And then
Stuart Pearce steps up. I think to myself: if he scores, I'm
going to kiss her.
And he misses. And then
Chris Waddle misses. And it isn't until I've walked her to the bus
stop in fucked-off silence, thinking how close England got, that
I remember that I could have got off with her. And the next I hear
from her, she's knocking off some twat who works at a garage.
Dusk, Sunday July
10th, 1994. Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet is No.1,
as it is all fucking year. I am in the back room of an office in
Newton Abbot, Devon that stinks of fags and discarded chip papers,
hacking away on two computer games magazines that will only be sold
in all-night garages, for an absolute cunt of a boss who looked
like Donkey Kong. My girlfriend is hundreds of miles away in London,
I'm working on a Sunday night for virtually fuck all, and I can't
even have a cheeky spliff out the window because Cunty Monkey-Boss
is sat on his fat arse in the next room playing Sim City, popping
his head round the door every five minutes to call us a bunch of
Thankfully, I'm also
watching Germany v Bulgaria in the quarterfinal of the World Cup,
on a knackered portable telly that my workmate Gamesdog brought
in after we threatened to go on strike if we weren't allowed to
watch it. It soothes the pain, even though Germany are looking like
marching to the final again in that efficiently predictable manner
that everyone loves them for. After the start of the second half,
they get a jammy penno and it's all over.
Just then, the door of
the 'Games cupboard' (rammed with about a million Game Boy cartridges
and a Jaguar that only got used once) decides to loosen itself from
its hinges and topples onto the 4-plug socket that serves as the
sole power connector for the whole office, smashing everything into
dust and bare wires. Fucking hell, if one of those touches the chip
paper and a pile of mags we were ripping off for cheat codes, we'll
get torched - and how will we ever know who wins the World Cup?
Cunty Monkey-Boss comes
in, looks at the damage and potential fire risk, and tells us to
stop fucking about and turn the telly off. We argue, but if he was
any more adamant about it, he'd have a white stripe across his nose
and be swinging on chandeliers in videos. Then he goes back to watch
the game in his office, coming out five minutes later to inform
us that Bulgaria had scored two goals in three minutes and had pulled
off the most shocking - and amusing - result in World Cup history.
July, 1998. I
don't know what's No.1, and I couldn't give two shits, as I am in
a right state. Lost my girlfriend, on the verge of losing me job,
living in a bedsit in a shithole of a house where the stairs glistened
with slug trails and trying to convince various utility companies
that I could pay the bills. Out of boredom, I decide to write a
World Cup Diary for an American e-zine to convince Americans what
the rest of the world already knew - that it's the most important
sporting event in the world. Over the month, I go out, get pissed,
watch loads and loads of footy, go mental, and come home and write
all about it.
It's now the end of May,
2002. I live in a bachelor pad in South London. I've just quit an
absolute headfuck of a job, and am about to start a brilliant one.
The '98 Diary got me noticed by a magazine, and I now do regular
freelance for proper magazines and newspapers. The whole world seems
to have gone mad, and there might be a war over Kashmir. But enough
about that shit - the World Cup's about to start again, and from
tomorrow I shall be starting the Diary. Unbelievers, heathens, basketball
fans - step up and be anointed...