June 8: ‘there is no reason why we cannot win this world cup’

The footballer who is not selected for the World Cup squad is a forlorn individual. At this time of year you will find him in Florida. He is on holiday. The World Cup squad has just taken the plane to Volgograd. The tabloids are taking us deeper into the psyche of the players. The tattoos; the stats; the depressions; the stepdads; the motors; the fiancees.The players are giving press conferences, wowing the public with their avowals of committment. The say things like ‘there is no reason why we cannot win this World Cup,’ the double negative telling. But the footballer who is not selected is baking in the unnatural heat of a Florida afternoon, in a place where nobody’s mind is on Russia. He is thinking: they are there, the 23. What number was I? Would I have made the 38? Or the 47? No matter. Here in Florida the number 23 has no resonance. He is by the pool. The painted sky is a sheet of blue. Sometimes he hears a German, or a Frenchman. They too may know what is soon to happen in Russia. But they did not get close to the 23. Maybe even as close as 28, or 29. In Florida they will fill your coffee cup as many times as you want for no extra charge. But this is irrelevant. His place is not here. It is there. And then, when the competition starts, he will find a bar with the match on. And at Tunisia 0 England 0 after 67 minutes of play he will decide to turn away, to leave the bar and find his loan car parked where he left it on the street. He will pull out onto an empty freeway. The summer stretches long and empty ahead of him. He is, he supposes, free.


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