Watching people watch the World Cup is a nightmare

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<p><figcaption class=Photography: Manu Fernandez/AP

It’s a great thing to see a football team, especially such a young, fresh and united team from your own nation, win a game. I love when they hug, I love when they run around happily – if someone were to create a branch of mime or contemporary dance based on football players and their physical expression of joy, I would instantly prefer that to all existing mimes.

At the same time, if you don’t particularly care about football but the people around you do, and very deeply – let’s call them your sons or daughters, your spouses, friends, the ones whose look you like on the social media platforms – getting to this point in an international tournament is a bloody nightmare. You can enter all the Doritos you want, and nothing will change the result. You spent all this time hoping they would reach the quarter-finals against someone who sucked, and it was a waste. It was illogical. Trash teams are eliminated!

You can almost taste disappointment if England lose to France next weekend; you can map its terrible progress, the gray veil it will cast over everyone in the house, even those who were just waiting for the TV to be free so they could watch on Wednesday. Somewhere in the back of your mind there’s a voice that says wait, right still lose against France? But is this old intelligence from the 90s? It’s too stressful for Google. Then if they/we win it’s even worse, because we have to start all over again, only now the stakes are higher, the potential disappointment even higher, the team probably better – isn’t that so things work? And, then, if we were to win that one, but lose the next one, there’s a good chance it would ruin Christmas.

Psychotherapy, I’m sure, would have something useful to say about this; something about not trying to micromanage other people’s emotions, letting them sit with their helpless rage without trying to minimize or dispel it. It’s probably a useful skill to take in life after the World Cup: a little more compassion, a little less empathy, resilience in the face of disappointment in others. Sure, well, whatever. I don’t want emotional learning. I just want a team that I have only recently been able to recognize to win it all.

  • Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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