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From me, to Euros

One thing that’s always impressed me when it comes to football fans is their seemingly infinite knowledge of the game. They don’t just seem to know what’s happening with the team they follow, but every team in the league. They don’t just know what happened in the current season, but the season before that, and in all likelihood, the one before that too.

Sometimes, it feels like the equivalent would be me reciting the plot of an episode from a programme I’ve never seen that last aired three years ago.

I don’t know where they get their information from, and frankly, I don’t care. I can only assume it’s a telepathic hive mind sort of thing. A collective consciousness fuelled by scarves and shouting at televisions.

I think my feelings towards football can be summed up in this gif.

However, and this is a big however, I do like some things football. I like the myth and ceremony. I can respect the almost religious reverence people have for stadiums, players and managers. I like the idea of a community coming together for one big cause; I like the idea of having something to root for. And yet, I feel like watching some blokes have a kick about isn’t a great way to spend an hour and a half of my time.

So how is it I’ve come to idealise significant aspects of a game I’ve actively tried to avoid all my life? Well, I’d put it down to marketers. They’ve bottled all the things that make football good and fed them to me, and I’ve gobbled them right down like orange slices at a half time interval.

To be honest, I can’t even be angry at them. It’s impressive, and it’s effective, and in honour of said marketers, I’m going to show some of the things that almost three decades of marketing and advertising have taught me about football.

Pepsi – Henry, Beckham and Ronaldinho

Back before Cristiano Ronaldo was disrupting the world of soft drinks by expressing a preference for agua, professional footballers were playing on the beach, all the while sipping from an ice-cold can of Pepsi.

I think I only saw this advert at the cinema, which is probably why I remember it so well. Unable to look away from the biggest screen a 10-year-old had ever seen as Thierry Henry smirks at some surfers getting their just desserts.

If anything, this advert taught me that football with your pals wasn’t just for pitches and cul-de-sacs. If it’s possible on surfboards, it’s possible anywhere.

Michael Owen and Walkers

Another advert with sportsmen promoting the sort of food that would probably make you worse at sport, this one features Gary Lineker attempting to murder Michael Owen after being replaced for a Walkers sponsorship.

Pretty dark stuff for a daytime tv advert. A lot of it went over my head though; I was in my late teens when I discovered Gary Lineker used to be a footballer – I just always assumed he was a massive fan of salty snacks. So the underlying suggestion that Michael Owen represented a new generation of football players was also lost on me.

I think the biggest takeaway from a shy-looking Michael Owen waving and signing autographs on his walk down the street was that footballers are some of the most popular people out there. Naturally, that comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, there are unlimited crisps, on the other, you’re always in a perilous situation resembling a 1960’s Batman episode. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

Johnny Wilkinson & David Beckham – Adidas

It probably comes as no surprise, but I didn’t know much about rugby growing up either, but in 2003, England won the Rugby World Cup and suddenly, or so it seemed, rugby was everywhere. People were buying rugby shirts, gum shields and holidays to Wales by the barrel full. There was an about turn as rugby players found themselves on par with footballers. The English, it seemed to suggest, were fans of rugby as long as our national team were winners and for four years, they were.

At the time Adidas released this advert, comparing the success of the rugby team to the middling attempts made by the football team, and looking at it today, it’s as funny now as it was back then. Back then though, this advert opened my eyes to England’s international standing in the football world.

My mates supported football teams that were all UK cities or towns; poor little naive me wasn’t aware that these teams were composed of players from all around the world. So imagine my surprise when it turned out that England was just a bit shit.

And I have Adidas to thank for that.

So, er, thanks?

A game of two halves

I’m surprised how much of the football ethos and culture I’ve picked up from nothing more than ad breaks. It’s a kind of osmosis, but it’s effective, just like my penchant for purchasing Walkers, Pepsi and posters of Johnny Wilkinson. I think if it boiled down to it, I wouldn’t be any good in a football-themed pub quiz, but maybe, just maybe, if they were showing a game, I might find myself enjoying it.


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