What a load of balls

I’m sure I heard a collective sigh of relief when the final whistle brought the 2014 World Cup to an end. What began as an overhyped celebration of global footballing skill, soon descended into a merry-go-round of playacting, underachievement and disapppointment.

England’s dismal exit feels like a lifetime ago. Since then I’ve witnessed simulated ‘fouls’ where players dived in the penalty area in attempts to con the referee into awarding a penalty. Then there was the sight of Luis Suarez biting an opponent, which gained him a four-month ban from football – and, bizarrely, a £75 million transfer to Barcelona. Oh, and how could I forget host nation Brazil’s defeat in the semi finals, losing 7-1 to Germany? Unbeaten on home soil for 39 years, Brazil then succumbed 3-0 to the Netherlands – I was amazed their manager got out of the stadium in one piece.

On the evening of the final I happened to be in the pub – yes, unusual, I know. There wasn’t a flag in sight. Five minutes before kick-off a stranger walked in and asked if it would be shown on the pub’s TV. “Yes,” said, the barman, “if you switch it on yourself.” That man was the only one in the pub to actually watch the game.

I left soon after the match began, but heard the commentary in the background at home as I was surfing the net. I was reading a report that proved some people willingly choose pain in preference to boredom. In a trial, a university professor found 18 out of 42 people told to spend 15 minutes in a room with nothing but their own thoughts for distraction, voluntarily gave themselves a mild electric shock, just to escape their ennui. One man pressed the electric shock button no fewer than 190 times.

I reckon that’s the level of masochism you’ll probably need to watch the next World Cup.

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