[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
How to be a football faker
By David McCandless

Dejected fan
Couldn't care less - that's not an excuse
You don't like it. In fact, you can barely understand it. But one thing's for sure - over the next few Euro 2004 drenched weeks, you're not going to able to get away from it.

Everyone's going to be talking football and unless you can opine a little about players, teams and tactics, you could find yourself embarrassed and excluded until the closing ceremony on 4 July.

This guide has been compiled to help you confidently watch games with friends and join in conversations about the tournament. Who knows, maybe you'll actually get into it.


If you're trapped at home or in a bar and forced to watch a game, it's helpful to have a stock of sayings to shout at the TV so you fit in.

For example:

  • "oooooooh" - whenever a shot is taken at the goal, no matter how close. (If especially close, a short round of clapping is permissible)
  • "Referee!" - if your players are fouled
  • [silence] - if your players foul the other team's
  • "PENALTY!" - if one of your players falls anywhere near the opponents' goal
  • "Go on, son" - when one of your players is heading goal-wards with the ball
  • "Unlucky" - when said player is effortlessly dispossessed by a 14m defender

    Face-painted children
    Be modest in your support, like all true England fans
    Note: calls of "offside!" are probably best avoided. Even the best linesmen standing there on the pitch rarely get this unfathomable rule right.

    Certain phrases are verboten. Nothing will reveal your lack of football knowledge more than an ill-conceived comment. Avoid the following:

  • "6-nil? All to play for then?"
  • "Which ones are England?"
  • "Wow - did you see how far he kicked that?"
  • "He's picked it up! He's throwing it! I thought you couldn't do that?"

    Replace said utterances with generalised, chin-stroking observations such as:

  • "Hmmmm, they're playing a little deep."
  • "They should push up more."
  • "They should bring on a holding midfielder."
  • "They need to get the ball into channels."

    A few of these confidently delivered during the game should disguise your ignorance.


    It's important that you react in the right way at the right time. When your team score, jubilation, shouting, jumping and hugging are expected. This is also the only time when spilling your drink on another man is forgivable.

    If the other team scores, however, a frozen look of shock, followed by a shake of the head and close examination of the bottom of the pint glass is appropriate. Try to avoid eye contact.

    If your team loses, rock back and forth in the foetal position until the bar staff say it's time to leave.


    Games can often be the subject of conversation for hours, days, weeks afterwards. This is when you could be most exposed.

    If asked for your opinion on a result, stick to short summaries like "Great game" and "Yeah fantastic" or "Terrible"/"Disaster". Always check the score the morning after a game to ensure you deliver a suitable reply. Try to avoid sentences which begin: "I loved the bit when..."

    A way out is to say "Sorry I missed the game" followed by an excuse of sufficient magnitude. "My wife gave birth" or "An aeroplane crashed into my house". If really pressed, never say you actually don't like football and never watch it. Stay calm and simply concede: "I don't have the football gene." Or "I'm more of a tennis person". "I support Scotland" is always an excuse that elicits sympathy.


    Thankfully, some generalisations can be deployed to keep your end up in a Euro 2004 conversation. The Spanish, for example, tend to under-perform in major tournaments (as do England). Italy are "good at the back" (ie they have an excellent defence). The Dutch are a "tempestuous" side. And, of course, the Germans are "well organised".

    Fans with flag
    Bone up on your footy and you too could be an England fan
    Try not to be drawn into any discussion about who's going to win the tournament. Stick to the major nations and be non-committal and diplomatic. England have "a chance". Spain, Italy and Holland are all "safe bets". France is a "favourite". Completely avoid speculation about "dark horse" countries like Croatia and Latvia. You could end up in deep water if asked to elaborate.

    If you find yourself pinned down, a wishy-washy caveat should get you unstuck. Something like: "Well, it is the European Championship. Anything can happen."

    Remember: optimism is the prevailing outlook during any tournament. Phrases like "early days", "all to play for", "still a chance", and "it's not over yet" should be repeated mantra-like, if you have nothing else to say.

    If you're feeling lucky, it may also be prudent to memorise some expert-level facts on the intricacies of the Latvian league or Zlatan Ibrahimovic's (that's ibra-HEEmovitch) scoring record. Don't worry if you know nothing about these things. No one does.


    In conversation, it helps to have adjectives to describe certain players. These should convey insight alongside a certain warrior grace. For England players, for example, Owen is "pacey", Dyer "versatile", and Rooney "fiery". Try to avoid inappropriate, non-footballing terms. Describing Owen as "cute" or Beckham as "lovely" may be frowned upon.

    Mocking players is okay in moderation - every armchair pundit has a player they hate. Watch out though. Some are fair game; others sacrosanct. For England, for example, Beckham is untouchable, even if he gets a red card, concedes a penalty, and scores two own goals. If in doubt, stick to Neville.

    And remember, at the end of the day, Euro 2004 is only on for three weeks - Big Brother lasts for 10.



    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
    UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
    Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
    Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific