A Non-Football Fan’s Guide To Surviving The World Cup

by : Tom Percival on : 14 Jun 2018 15:42
FIFA World Cup TrophyFIFA World Cup TrophyGetty

A couple of years ago I penned a guide for people like myself – who don’t like football – but enjoy the camaraderie of watching it in the pub with friends. 

Now, the most exciting competition in the beautiful game, (aside from the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Championship play-offs and literally every other competition ever), the World Cup is about to begin.


Across the country, fans are excited to watch England dominate the world stage and I think it’d be a real shame to deny non-fans, like myself, an excuse to day drink and wear a St George’s flag as a cape.

So I’ve decided to, once again, offer my advice and help people like myself, who don’t watch the footie, navigate the next two weeks of non-stop football banter and chat.

After all, the usual nonsense about City having no fans, Liverpool being obsessed with the past and United being the new Liverpool, isn’t going to fly when you’re talking about the World Cup.


(For the record this is written from the perspective of an England fan but feel free to replace England with your home nation or whatever country you choose to support during the World Cup)

England fanEngland fanGetty

Always Support ING-UR-LAND!

Regardless of your thoughts on patriotism, the country itself or indeed on whether 11 blokes kicking a piece of rubber around for ninety minutes qualifies as a job, the first rule of watching the World Cup is to always support England.


Or as it should be pronounced whenever you’re watching the mighty Lions play, ‘ING-UR-LAND’.

Why you ask? Well despite ING-UR-LAND failing to win any major competition in over half a century, the average English supporter considers his beloved white and reds ‘world beaters’.

For those like myself who don’t know what a ‘world beater’ is, it’s not literally beating the world with a bat – that would be ridiculous – instead, it involves beating the teams of the 32 nations who qualify to take part.


Remember, no one likes a contrarian football fan, and while you may be tempted to bash the team, if you do, you won’t be allowed to bask in the glory if hell does freeze over and England actually win the damn thing.

Never mind that the ING-UR-LAND team frequently struggle to beat countries whose national teams could be bought and sold for half the wage of a Premier League footballer – when the tournament starts, they’re undefeatable, and it’s the duty of you as a ‘fan’ to throw your support behind them because remember, ‘it’s coming home’.

That is until…

England fan crying at Euro 2016England fan crying at Euro 2016Getty

England Get Knocked Out

Inevitably though ING-UR-LAND will flame out of the World Cup, usually after an embarrassing defeat in the group stages – but we have been known to make it to the semi-finals before. 

At this point, you can drop the pretence of supporting England, start pronouncing it properly and indulge in the nation’s true national sport, self-flagellation and referee bashing.

Like the stages of grief, there are distinct phases which dictate how you should act when England are knocked out. The first stage is blaming the match officials.

‘Of course, England were knocked out the referee was clearly in the pocket of [insert nation here] and, that ‘linesman needs to go to [insert local optician here] and get his eyes checked’ are go to lines during this phase.

Following this, we move onto blaming FIFA, who in the eyes of most football fans, are a wholly corrupt and nefarious organisation, dedicated to keeping England from achieving national glory ever again.

Then the public and national press will turn on the England team itself who, regardless of what you really think or what people were saying about them less than 12 hours ago, are now nothing more than ‘overpaid, prima donnas, who’ve never done a days graft in their life’.

England fan crying at EURO 2012, England v ItalyEngland fan crying at EURO 2012, England v ItalyGetty

You’ll be expected to maintain this confusing mentality for at least 48-hours after England drop out of the competition, and I recommend sighing loudly whenever the team is mentioned.

Finally, we reach the penultimate stage – blaming the manager – who’ll inevitably be fired, which gives way to the final stage – a renewed optimism that the new manager will help us reclaim our status as world beaters.

Chance would be a fine thing…

2006 England world cup team 2006 England world cup team Getty

Hark Back To The Past

Like Liverpool fans, England fans have a fondness for the past.

Unlike Liverpool though, England fans don’t really have a past they can be too proud of, (1966 aside), so they get weirdly metaphysical reminiscing about a team who hasn’t won the World Cup (or anything else) for some time, but by all rights should have.

If a football fan starts talking to you about the competition and you find yourself out of your depth, simply wistfully mention the fabled 2006 team and how they were robbed.

You can fall back on blaming Fifa for the reason they lost, or indeed blame anything else, but it’s a scientific fact they’re the best side England have had since 1966… even though they only made it to the quarter-finals.

If banging on about a team that never won anything doesn’t get you anywhere, try claiming that the 1966 team, who actually won the World Cup, were the best and would walk the competition now.

Bobby Moore recreation of winning the World CupBobby Moore recreation of winning the World CupGetty

Have A Back-Up Team

Just because the World Cup’s over for England, don’t go thinking you can stop watching. You’re expected to have a second team who are still in the competition. 

Usually, this will be a team you have a vague connection to, for example, if your cousin’s best mate moved to Australia you might want to pretend to support Australia or if you holidayed in Benidorm once, you might want to throw your lot in with the Spanish side.

I usually choose to support the Netherlands – partly because my dad lived there and secondly, because I like how their orange kit clashes with the green grass, but the b*stards haven’t qualified this year.

Dutch National SideDutch National SideGetty

So instead, I picked Belgium – it’s a fun word to say and I’m told they’re not half bad.

The added benefit of supporting your back up team is, fans won’t expect you to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them and you can probably get away with some half-baked platitudes.

England fan with Harry Kane maskEngland fan with Harry Kane maskGetty

Be warned though, there’s the danger of being seen as a plastic fan at this point, which is the worst kind of fan apparently, presumably because they dissolve in acetate.

To combat this you should probably know the name of at least one striker so you can shout their name whenever they get the ball. Shouting proves you care you see…

Here’s a glossary of some helpful terms:

That’s an appalling decision – Use whenever an official makes a decision you disagree with.

Man on! – Still no idea what this means?

It’s still early doors – Can be used to describe the initial ten minutes of a game or to defend England being bottom of the group

Advantage – When your side has the ball and is near the goal, your opponents never have the advantage and are always offside.

Back of the net! – The traditional thing to say when a goal is scored.

Beautiful touch – When a player manages to kick the ball in the direction they’re paid to.

Jammy b*stard – When an opposing player kicks the ball in the direction they’re paid to.

Dribble – The stuff you wipe off yourself if you fall asleep watching the game.

This game needs a goal – A nonsensical phrase that can be said literally whenever.

It’s coming home! – A phrase use to imply that England will win the World Cup.

Come on ING-UR-LAND!

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Tom Percival

More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism. Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV. He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.

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