Measuring your life in World Cup milestones
7 June ~ ITV once produced an excellent trailer for their World Cup coverage – no seriously, they did – showing how a man progressed through his life via the key milestone of each World Cup. So we see him as a child celebrating England's 1966 triumph, as a youngish man looking devastated when Chris Waddle fires a penalty into orbit in 1990, all the way through to him in the modern day; watching a game in the office with work colleagues, now that he's become a middle-aged, serious person.
The advert worked because it resonated with the impact the World Cup has on our lives. Think back to any previous tournament, and we can instantly recall how we watched it and what was going on in our wider life. As a child I remember rushing home from school to watch the late afternoon/early evening kick-offs. For France 98 I had just completed my GCSEs, so was in the rare position of having nothing to do but sit at home and watch every game. By Japan/South Korea in 2002 I was at university and, just like any typical student, struggling to haul myself out of bed for the horribly-early morning kick-offs – even though it only involved walking downstairs and plonking myself on a couch, with nothing else to do for the day but a couple of end-of-term essays.
For Germany 06 I was that bit more grown up, in the beginnings of fashioning a career and working in an office. I was part of a small team who were all female, apart from my boss, and not interested in football. So when I booked every afternoon off for three weeks so I could watch all the matches, no one raised an eyebrow or resented me, save for my jealous manager. It was a glorious arrangement. Go into work for a few hours, then be home by lunch time for Togo v Switzerland. And it barely put a dent in my holiday allowance.
Four years on and in the same role, I was initially able to make similar arrangements to enjoy the South Africa tournament. That is until I successfully applied for another job, with a start date of this week, which has thrown my World Cup schedule into tatters. It means this will probably be the tournament where I see the least amount of live action.
I can hardly begin my new job asking for half days and slinking off home every lunchtime for three weeks, when there's the ropes to learn and a strong first impression to attempt to make. While the group matches are played out at 12.30pm and 3pm every day, I will be stuck in the office trying to look busy at my computer screen – subtly checking online for the latest scores when no one's looking. I'll still get to watch a live game every evening of course, but it's hardly the festival of football I've been used to.
And so a ITV World Cup trailer starring me would feature the cliched excitable youngster amazed by the exoticness of Maradona and Alexi Lalas's beard; a bleary-eyed student lounging about in tracksuit bottoms inside a rat-infested messy house; and an office worker symbolically throwing his tie to the ground as he got home at 12pm on a weekday afternoon, not quite believing his luck. But my 2010 scene will be that of someone reluctantly working late in a pathetic attempt to impress the new boss, cursing the fact we all have to grow up eventually. Jason McKeown
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