July 2nd, 2010
12:46 AM ET

Armchair Diaries: 'Frankly my Villa, I don't give a Lahm'

Like father, like son: Matt Booth and pop try to last the World Cup marathon (CNN)
Like father, like son: Matt Booth and pop try to last the World Cup marathon (CNN)

Editor’s note: CNN Hong Kong Operations Supervisor Matthew Booth will attempt to watch every match of the World Cup on television in the wee small hours of the night. Can he do it without being fired/divorced/committed to an asylum? Follow his updates here, as he becomes more and more incoherent from extreme sleep deprivation.

It’s possible I’ve watched a little too much football.

In total, about 5,100 minutes. Which is 85 hours or three-and-a-half full days on my couch. That’s like watching "Gone with the Wind" 23 times. I know some people out there would say, "Frankly my Villa, I don’t give a Lahm," but this has been something of a personal mission for me, and it’s now mercifully approaching the easy bit.

With the quarterfinals played over the coming weekend, then only one match a day for the semifinals, it almost feels like stopping a few meters from the finish line, having a pint and a bit of a lie-down. With a mournfully small amount of sleep during the epic ultramarathon of the first three weeks, we have now entered the leisurely egg-and-spoon race of the final stretch - and that’s just fine with me.

I slept a toe-curling 11 hours on Wednesday, the first rest day. It would have been 11 hours straight through if it wasn’t for my wife, who, bless her cotton socks, woke me while quietly trying to set my alarm clock (it squirmed out of her hands and smashed to smithereens right next to my head.)

Springing into the office after the first rest day, I was surprised that people have stopped telling me how dreadful I look, which had become something of a daily fixture in my office conversation.

My wife, Veronica, even said: ”You’re back! You’ve been away somewhere for a while, but you’re back!”

Even though it’s possible I may have been somewhat emotionally absent for the first three weeks of the tournament, I’m not sure Veronica would consider herself a “World Cup widow” for two reasons:

(i) I’m not dead, although during the first half of Uruguay vs. France, I did consider it.

(ii) She’s watched almost all the early games with me.

She even tried the 2.30am night games a few times, but the Chile vs. Spain game was the steel girder that smashed the camel’s back to atoms. We got to half time with Veronica slipping in and out of consciousness like a British boxer in Vegas, when she erupted: “I’m TIRED, and I’m HOT, and I’m UNCOMFORTABLE and I don’t care anymore, and I’m going to BED.”

I asked her if she might like to watch Chile vs. Brazil with me a few nights later. She signaled her answer by laughing in my face.

Our relationship reached equilibrium during the excellent USA vs. Ghana game. I was happily on the couch with my mini salami sticks and my carrots, she was dancing the night away with friends at a gay bar. Perfect. Married bliss.

I know that most of this self-imposed football-driven sleep deprivation is laughably trivial to new parents who haven’t slept for months at a time. Hopefully the act of clicking links on websites is too much for them, and I can escape their censure.

I was exchanging text messages with just such a new mum during the South Korea vs. Uruguay match. Bianca, a friend of mine who recently had baby James, was watching the games during late night feeds. James has been pretty much weaned on football, but as he’s half English and half Australian his future as a football supporter is hardly bright. Perhaps cricket might be a better idea?

My dad, who blessed me by making me a Liverpool fan but cursed me by being English, continues to visit my HD LED TV football cave for the choicest games.

He has an endearing trait of screaming “FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL!” at the television when someone is doing something attractive. If a player does something so shirt-rippingly amazing that they will want to make him the next “American Idol” judge and a U.N goodwill ambassador, Dad might add a third “FOOTBALL!” to the sentence, but that’s very rare.

He didn’t even utter one “FOOTBALL!” during the Brazil vs. Portugal game. In fact he was so bored he kept getting up to make ham and cheese sandwiches. We’d run out of cheese and ham by the end of the first half, which meant both him AND the dog were begging for my salami sticks.

This week I expect to see Dad eat fewer sandwiches as we have some fantastic matches to go before we get to the ultimate game. However, it’s impossible not to be fantasizing about the final already.

I’m crossing every conceivable body part, and I’m dribbling with anticipation for the potential of Spain vs. Brazil. My bowels quiver at the prospect of the best of Europe clacking its castanets at the best of South America’s samba drums.

That kind of titanic encounter might even get a third ‘FOOTBALL’ out of my Dad. I certainly hope so.


Diet colas drunk: 110

Baby carrots eaten: 6.5 kgs

Mini Salami sticks consumed: 140

Hours slept on first rest day: 11

Matches watched: 56 out of 56

Funniest TV commentary line: “This is VERY nil nil” (during Japan vs. Paraguay)

Funniest fan banner in stadium: “These Scousers get everywhere” (during New Zealand vs. Slovakia)

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Ronald

    Silly or not, I respect your determination. Keep it up!

    July 2, 2010 at 4:57 am | Reply
  2. Fred

    Great writing!

    I have been following all your diaries and find them very entertaining!

    Have you considered switching to journalism?

    July 2, 2010 at 5:10 am | Reply
  3. Rudy

    Awesome writing!!

    Keep it up and continue sharing your story!!

    July 2, 2010 at 6:48 am | Reply
  4. kweku B

    Very interesting article mirrored on my own personal experiences except my blood pressure and weight are getting out of control, hopefully i might start eating less junk food next week when my beloved Ghana wins the world cup. Cruel laughter from my girlfriend? but i ll have the last laugh

    July 2, 2010 at 7:47 am | Reply
  5. Phil

    Good show! However, I disagree with your prediction of Spain vs Brazil in the final. I think it will be an all South American affair – Argentina vs Brazil...

    July 2, 2010 at 8:06 am | Reply
  6. emilio

    Wait. Your wife said "I 'm HOT" + "I'm going to BED" and you didn't go with her?

    July 2, 2010 at 8:11 am | Reply
  7. Roland Walter

    You know what is important in life. Spain vs. Brazil would be ideal, and I'm rooting for Spain.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:00 am | Reply
  8. sweetypie

    Splendid! Since 2006 when my brother & family came to
    austria to see Mexico play in Munich, I have become such a Soccer fan. Before I saw some clasic games but never like this. It really makes u happy. I enjoy and suffer too when my favorite is loosing. Its just a game but a wonderful one. EM & WM both are great !!

    July 2, 2010 at 9:13 am | Reply
  9. Daniel

    SPAIN vs BRAZIL for the final!! The best of Europe clacking its castanets at the best of South America’s samba drums!! Powerful writing. Powerful emotions. Powerful sport.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:17 am | Reply
  10. Angelita

    The Final will be Argentina vs. Netherlands.

    July 2, 2010 at 10:29 am | Reply
  11. marcos from Brazil

    Great article... I wish I had all this time on my hands to watch all the games... I envy u mr! (In a good way of course :))

    July 2, 2010 at 10:44 am | Reply
  12. okioga

    You right Angelita, Argentina vs Netherlands in the final. In a few hours Netherlands are going to knock out Brazil.

    July 2, 2010 at 10:52 am | Reply
  13. T.

    I've only missed about 30 minutes of two games earlier in the tournament as I've studied for a test. I'm sorry but, assuming you dont have a job and you enjoy the sport, I dont think this is that much of an accomplishment.

    July 2, 2010 at 11:59 am | Reply
  14. Bill

    Amazing! Although I am not an avid football fan, it is THE World Cup. Fortunately I'm able to watch the matches on ESPN courtesy of AFN. Ironically I can also watch on Al Jazeera. All my underdogs have fallen. Now all I'm hoping for is someone to humiliate the arrogant Argentines.

    July 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  15. sumer

    good that WC is once in 4 years....hehe. Maradona will add to his name to the title that few can claim. Winning the WC as a captian and as a coach.

    July 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Reply

    I am a sportsman and have once been a National Coach of a sport. So I do have an idea what Nigerian sports is all about.
    The World at large and FIFA, have no idea what-so-ever what goes on behind the scenes of Nigerian sports. The Administrative malpractices, the massive corruption. The President is damn too slow and too soft, if you ask me. FIFA needs to leave us to deal with the matter the way Nigerians understand how. FIFA does not check how the money given is used. This is not Europe or America, this is an African nation that has decided for many years to leave corruption to destroy sports and make us look like we have nothing to offer.
    The Militants in the Niger Delta believed that Westerners saw our greed and fueled it to get away with much greater atrocities. Does FIFA have something to gain, if our soccer administrators continue this enormous level of corruption?
    We could be on the verge of taking African soccer to the true world level it should be and also using monies given to us by various international soccer loving organizations for the proper reason it was given.
    FIFA, please help our President, help us.
    Nigerian Soccer Lover (NSL).

    July 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  17. FanFoot

    N-Euro Coming Home Football !!! Great Soccer Song!!! Support Great players!!! N-Euro Coming Home Football !!! U-tube soccer anthem!

    July 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Reply

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