Having watched almost every kick of the previous 11 World Cups, my family and friends were sceptical about my ability to boycott the 2018 competition (see polemics passim). Having ignored the qualifiers over the preceding two years, though, I was more optimistic. Wrapped only in abstract but righteous armour, I sat out the first round of group games at Russia 2018 with barely a glance at the screen. Soon after that, I left Germany for a French hamlet in Burgundy where - thanks to the generosity of friends - I stayed alone in a farm house with thick stone walls, uneven floors, and neither a TV nor an internet connection.
|2002: the innocent age of pre-HD television|
The night before I left, though, my wife and youngest daughter were watching Croatia v Argentina while I packed, and their yelps and yells were impossible to ignore. I thought back to when I was watching Senegal v France, the opening game of the 2002 World Cup. I had loudly exclaimed throughout that astonishing match, but at one point found the whole family - wife and two daughters, then aged 6 and 3 - standing next to me and asking, "Jesus, is this what it's going to be like for the next four weeks?"
We've come a long way. They shout, emote and cuss now too, and they claim to have learnt it from the best. Now here I was, 16 years later, wishing that they would keep the noise down. I was wishing even more that I could sit beside them on the