And so the clock turns, the years (all four of them) pass and here we are again, at the dawn of a new World Cup tournament. For a few brief weeks next month the planet will focus on little else, as new heroes and villains are born in the South African heat, forging their way into permanent national symbolism and sporting history.
Exciting times. Except for one tiny detail. I really don’t like football. Which, back in Blighty, was never a problem. Yes, it annoys my footy friends, but they have long given up trying to convince me of the benefits of a game that lasts well over an hour and generally ends 1-0. Instead, we talk about life’s more important topics, such as the long-term environmental effect of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, or whether Knight Rider’s car could beat the Hazzard brothers’ General Lee in a race involving a least three canyon jumps and no turbo boost.
But as a bona-fide expat living in Dubai, not liking football isn’t a mere annoyance, it’s a social disability. Because football – the Premiership league in particular – is the glue that binds travelling men together. ‘Where do you live and who do you support?’ is the standard opener when greeting any stranger. ‘Actually, I don’t like football’ results in an awkward silence, followed by the inevitable response – ‘Ah, a rugby man!’ This, I would like to point out, isn’t a question. It’s a conclusion. I always nod, because to say ‘I’m not really a rugby man either’ is to descend into a quick-fire farce as we attempt to ascertain what sport I do actually enjoy (there must be one: the entire fabric of the universe depends on men liking sport). Sometimes I help out and say, ‘Only joking, I’m a Chelsea fan,’ and the wave of relief across their face is worthy of a photograph. But generally I begrudgingly accept that I’m a ‘rugby man’, and we move on.
But there is no easy answer to the ubiquitous taxi driver greeting of ‘England? Manchester United!’ other than ‘Go the Reds!’ Not knowing the England line-up (and I genuinely don’t) is tantamount to treason: just try explaining to the chaps at Time Out Towers that you’re not particularly fussed about tickets to the World Cup (‘It’s professional suicide!’ gasped one colleague, not joking in the slightest). Well, I went to the last World Cup and I was bored silly. I can’t be alone. There must be others out there. And so, much like Will Smith’s desperate solitary message in I Am Legend, I say this: My name is Ross Brown. I am broadcasting on the Time Out frequency. I will be at Barasti every Friday when the sun is at its lowest. If you are out there… if there is anyone out there who doesn’t like football… you are not alone.
Ross Brown is our editor