Jonathan Self becomes a football fan
IHOPE it won’t turn nasty,’ said Rose. ‘You don’t want to get caught up in some fight.’ I reminded her that, in pursuance of my journalistic duties, I had escaped an (admittedly, fairly inept) kidnap attempt in Colombia, come under enemy fire in the Eastern Desert, been chased by a polar bear in Greenland and, perhaps most terrifying of all, been attacked by an angry mob during the Harrods Sale.
She, in turn, quoted Oscar Wilde: ‘Football is all very well as a game for rough girls, but is hardly suitable for delicate boys.’
This week, I took our, um, delicate boys—alex, 21, and Nick, 17—to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play. I come from a rugger family. On the day of my parents’ wedding, my father and his best man left the reception early to see a Twickenham kick-off.
I was, according to my mother, practising crusher tackles and flat passes in the womb. Indeed, the only other time I had ever attended a soccer match was in 1973, when I went with friends to watch Brighton & Hove Albion play at home.
In 1976, I even declined a free ticket offered by Liverpool player John Toshack, whose volume of poetry, Gosh It’s Tosh (it has the immortal lines: ‘Wales come out in brand new kit/but I don’t play ’cos I’m not fit./england win the game two-one/now all their players joke and fun’), was published by my mother’s firm.
However, despite having every advantage in life—viz. being sent to a rugby school— soccer is the boys’ game. Since the cradle, they’ve shown unwavering devotion to the Red Devils and yet they had never come closer to seeing their team play than our television screen. Our trip to Manchester was, then, for them something of a pilgrimage. For me, soccer not being my sport and large crowds not being my thing, it was expected to be something of an ordeal. I could not have been more wrong.
True, the visiting supporters were so bellicose that the police confined them to a special area, but our fellow fans couldn’t have been politer. When Juan Mata’s shoe came off by accident and hit another player, no one laughed. When Marcos Rojo took a quick break to eat a banana, barely a soul made monkey sounds. Good play was rewarded with restrained clapping. The match itself, given the limitations of the sport, was surprisingly exciting.
Indeed, I’m already planning another trip for next season.
We returned to West Cork to find ‘rebellion weather’, a term coined 101 years ago to describe any spell of unseasonably warm spring weather, such as occurred during the Easter Rising. I would be out of doors revelling in the clear blue skies, endless sunshine and soaring temperatures now, were I not a prisoner in my own study.
I am labouring under that most cursed of all afflictions: a deadline. I find them negative inspiration, but, as Rita Mae Brown pointed out, this is better than no inspiration at all. The object of my suffering is a book to be called Good Money: Become an ethical entrepreneur. Change the world. Feel better. Instructions enclosed.
As it stands, the title may be the longest thing about it, although the subject is one on which I feel strongly, given the potential business has for doing good.
My object is to show that a business focused almost entirely on improving some aspect of the world we live in rather than on financial gain can’t help but achieve positive, meaningful change, but will also generate above-average profits.
I’m hoping to persuade those starting a business to think in terms of how it can achieve some higher goals and those who already own a business to alter its direction.
The best bit of writing it has been gathering up the examples, which include a business that’s given away 60 million pairs of shoes and another that’s provided more than two million people in poorer countries with glasses.
In the past, society has looked to its politicians and public servants to make improvements and correct wrongs. Neither group has shown itself to be up to what is, I concede, a formidable task. Perhaps the time has come for ethical entrepreneurs and consumers to work together to make a difference.
Anyway, available in all good bookshops in August. Heavily discounted in September. That is, providing I knuckle down to a bit of real work.
I was, according to my mother, practising crusher tackles in the womb’