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An idiot’s Guide to the World Cup
For non-fans, the summer offers a few weeks of blissful freedom from football (or soccer, for our US readers). Except this year, when the World Cup 2014 ensures that there will be football in pubs, in restaurants, and that football “banter” (for this is the kind of word that football fans use) will be substituted for conversation wherever possible.
Even if you’re not in Brazil next month, there is no escaping the World Cup. It is, however, perfectly possible to fool fans into thinking that you’re not only up to speed with this year’s tournament, but also a die hard fan.
Even the Scottish – or pretend Scottish – should keep a few basic facts under their belts. This year’s hosts Brazil, for instance, is a very large country with very good footballers – having won the World Cup a record five times. Brazilian footballer Ronaldo also holds the record for most goals scored during World Cup tournaments, with 15.
When referring to Brazil, drop the phrase “Samba football” into conversation – this refers to any move where players leap about in a dance-like fashion. Nod wisely after you have said this.
At some point, you may well be forced to actually watch football – with people. Try to ensure this happens later on in the competition, as the rules early on concerning who gets knocked out are frankly baffling. England games, assuming the team survives, are a particularly good choice. Everyone will be blind drunk and roaring or wailing continuously so you can blend in unnoticed. Your only contribution should be singing – the sort where you just shout vaguely in time, like at weddings.
Penalty shootouts are what happens when teams draw. These are actually much less boring than football itself, but a devastating way to exit the tournament. If this comes up, try not to look too interested. Practice your sad face instead, and save your cheers only for when those around you are celebrating.
If asked a completely incomprehensible question, ignore it, and remind people that the next world cup will be in Russia, and what a mess they made of the Winter Olympics. Then feign hysterical laughter to cover your escape.
You can also distract your tormentors by suggesting that you’d planned a trip to Brazil, but were put off by the toilet facilities. In the run up to any sports event, newspapers will inevitably suggest that the venue won’t be finished on time, and facilities will be so primitive that players may be forced to relieve themselves on the pitch. Failing that, download a good freebie travel app and distract people with facts – Brazil Travel Guide by Triposo – is free, and packed with them.
If you’re floundering, use the “pub quiz” technique. Any news app will give you a vague idea what’s going on, but the official World Cup app will allow you to bombard people with statistics on your return. Or try ESPN’s, which may be best for people who literally know nothing – it’s made by Americans, who also understand football about as well as British people understand contract bridge. It’s free on both Android and iOS.