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Early evening, June 19th, 1974. The Streak by Ray Stevens is No.1, but I don't know that, because me Dad never lets me watch Top Of The Pops because I'm only six and I have to watch it at Tony Bones' house, and he's on holiday, the bastard.

While me Dad is at the pub, and me Mam's doing the ironing, I have a flick through the TV channels (which doesn't take long, because there are only three) and discover Holland v Sweden, live from Dortmund, West Germany. Round one of the 1974 World Cup....

 

Day 1:

PROLOGUE

May 27th 2002

 

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 with them.

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.

 

Evening, Saturday 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 arrive.

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 BASTARDS".

 

Nearly chucking-out 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 wankers.

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. Bastard.

 

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...