and another thing...

Talk about how to lose friends and alienate people.

I’m aware that popping up on the sports pages to say the following is not going to make me popular.

I know those who sometimes enjoy my columns here (yes, there are some – I have the letters to prove it) might have turned against me in about 1,000 words time.

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I know it is possibly not the wisest career move I have ever made.

But, like Martin Luther King, or Ghandi, I have to stand up for what I believe and this has to be said.

I am sick, sick to the back teeth of, as you call it, football. Or as I call it, Kickball (mainly to wind up football-loving colleagues). Or indeed Wendyball as I overheard a rugby player calling it – which I think is my favourite.

“Oh, here we go, another article about how much someone can’t stand football, why don’t you jog on and write in one of them women’s mags the wife reads on a weekend?” I hear you ask in a unified voice.

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Well, here’s the thing, it is not that I am not a sports fan.

As some of you will know from my irregular appearances on these pages, I love cricket, me.

I am obsessed with the game, I dream about it, daydream about it, I rarely stop playing the game in my head.

So it’s not that I do not understand the passion you all have for kickyball.

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Believe me, I understand the deep love you can feel for a game that essentially involves 22 blokes chasing a ball about a field (in your case to kick it, in mine to catch it).

So why the beef?

Once every couple of years (I believe that’s how often Wendyball has an international tournament – I really have, for reasons I am about to explain, deliberately cultivated a quite staggering level of ignorance about the game and the way it works) your passion and our apparently ‘national game’ takes. Over. Everything.

I’ve done my research for this column and know that the England Football team beat Ukraine last week (although I’m led to believe that, were the football authorities as adaptable to change and forward-thinking as those who run cricket and therefore willing to use things like goal-line technology, then the result might not have been quite so impressive).

The day after the game a number of national newspapers featured football on their front pages (admittedly it helped that someone with the first name Wayne appeared to have been involved in a result which meant the England Football team avoided Spain, which apparently would have been a pain – a sub editor’s dream). But still. Do you know when cricket was last featured on all the front pages?

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I do, because I’ve kept every newspaper from that day. It was September 12, 2005, the day we broke the drought and England won the Ashes at home for the first time in my cricketing life.

That is seven years since my sport was on the front of the newspapers and just a couple of days since the same was true of kickball.

By the bye, I should probably explain something – I wonder if you have noticed an idiosyncrasy in the way I’ve been writing.

I refer to England when I mean our national cricket team and the England Football team when I mean the other national team.

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Irritating? Redressing the balance my friends – among all my colleagues any time ‘England’ are mentioned, it’s a given that they’re discussing the country’s football team – not me.

So, England just beat the West Indies in a series which we dominated and Jimmy Anderson displayed some of the finest, controlled swing bowling I have ever seen. Ian Bell played a one- day innings of sublime beauty. Would you know anything about that?

Not unless you were hunting deep within the back pages of your newspapers because the fact that all the kickball teams of Europe are playing is dominating the sports pages (not the wonderful YP, obviously, I mean all those other national newspapers).

And the worst thing? It’s about to get a whole lot worse.

Depending on the result of last night’s game between the England Football team (I’m writing this before the game) we are about to be subjected to a further week of coverage if the result was a positive one for our national football team and weeks of analysis of why not, if it was not.

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England, our national cricket team, are about to take part in a series against South Africa, which should be a brilliant, thrilling examination of our claim to remain the best in the world.

And, just as happens every two years, it will remain a mystery to most regular sports fans and not those with a special interest in cricket.

We are the best in the world, we invented the game, and it is now taking the status of special interest because there is a bi-annual kickball tournament.

And you know what the very worst thing is about all of this?

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If the England Football team beat Italy last night, we are through to a semi-final sometime this week and then possibly a final next weekend.

I’ll miss the semis because I’m currently appearing in a play – which, ironically, is based on Anthony Clavane’s book about Leeds United, Promised Land – although what makes me feel much better about this odd fact is that I am playing a character who refers to the ‘beautiful game’ as footb****cks.

But if we get to the final the greatest irony is that, despite the previous 950 words, I’ll be there cheering on the England Football team.