The greatest soap opera of them all

Last night I dreamt about Ashley Cole. The night before I dreamt that we were no longer in the Champion’s League.

They say that women discover either God or gardening. I have discovered goals. More specifically goals scored by men wearing a dark shade of blue, ideally Frank Lampard, whom I adore so much I dedicated my last novel, The Ex Factor, to him. But I am happy with contributions from Hazard, Mata, even Fernando Torres.
Rather than heading to church or the rose bushes, I have become an utterly fanatical Chelsea fan. My whole diary (during the football season that is) is dominated by Chelsea fixtures. Any opportunity to travel to London has to coincide with a home fixture. If I am asked to a dinner party the first thing I do is check that Chelsea is not playing. Our lives are so inextricably linked that I cannot imagine what on earth I did before this obsession began.

I’m amazed it hasn’t afflicted many other women. Because football is the greatest soap opera of them all. Forget Downton. Emerdale what? Football literally has it all. Money, men in shorts, cheating, glory, despair and elation – and you really cannot predict the outcome. Even if you’re 3-0 up at half time, you can still lose. As the recently-retired Sir Alex Ferguson put it: “Football is a drug that is hard to give up.”

My first brush with Chelsea FC came when I was 16 years old and a (female) friend of mine took me to Stamford Bridge. At the time I was more into fashion than football and didn’t really think much of it. My friend by the way never veered from the true blue course. She now has one child named after our home ground and another after Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola.

It took a while for me to find my way back again. I married a man who has been a Chelsea fan since the FA Cup replay against Leeds in 1970. During our early-married life we would watch Match of the Day together.

“It’s not very exciting,” I grumbled once.

“Yes it is,” he replied. “You just need to pick a team.”

I can’t really say when a desultory interest turned into a total obsession. But from being on the sidelines of my husband’s football interest, I suddenly overtook him.

As I said earlier, football is the world’s greatest soap opera. It is not just the action on the pitch, but all the action off it. Take the ‘second coming’ of José Mourinho. It has elevated the soap opera to an even higher level. It’s a bit like having Lord Voldemort manage your team (the main character in my novel is nick-named after him). Even non-football fans have heard of José, and he is the kind of charismatic, enigmatic man that will attract a lot more interest in the game, especially from women.

I predict females following football will increase massively over the next few years. As we get more and more bored with celebrities we will turn our attention to things that really matter, such as sport. And there is no greater sport than the beautiful game.

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