World Cup Special: Confessions of a Fantasy Footballer

As of Wednesday morning, I am currently in the middle of pre-tournament preparation, having spent weeks mentally training for the start of this summer’s most emotionally harrowing sporting tournament.

I know that “finals” and “coursework” are just covers, excuses to explain away the bags under my friends’ eyes – they have been training hard for this competition for some time, and it shows. If we could attribute words to the nervous glances over the top of laptop screens in the Rad Cam, they’d speak of the frustrations of having to decide between a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, or having to deal with the stress of squeezing Iniesta, Di Maria and Yaya Toure into midfield on a paper-thin budget.

Surely Socrates and Nietzche would have scratched their heads if asked whether it’s wise to blow the budget on a front three of Neymar, Messi, and Ronaldo. I am nearly certain that Keynes would struggle to master the obviously insanely complex algorithm that determines Adam Lallana’s £0.1M price rise, while Hippocrates would have done well to guide us on whether Oxlade-Chamberlain will be fit in time to warrant a place in my squad.

It’s a “funny old game”, fantasy football (thanks Kev). It most potently reveals its power when you find yourself actually hoping that Mario Balotelli manages to smack a 30-yard volley past Joe Hart, or when you pray that Uruguay’s Diego Godin keeps a clean sheet against the mighty three lions, your mind raging with the conflicts of national pride versus fantasy team glory.

I wasn’t taking selfies next to Jacky Wilshire on the England plane. I’m not going to be on any plane heading anywhere near Brazil over the next few weeks – the furthest south-west I’ll be going is Castle Wetherspoons.

Yet thanks to some beautiful bloke named Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach (an American businessman, thanks Wikipedia) I’ll be watching all 64 games with an avid attention – noting with a Wenger-esque scrupulousness the number of tackles Johan Djourou puts in, or wincing with every missed opportunity for an assisted goal by Andrea Pirlo.

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So when your lowly sweepstake team Costa Rica bows out at the group stages, when England gracelessly lose to Portugal on penalties in the first knockout round, and when the quarter finals end in a string of dull one-nillers, you can thank fantasy football for maintaining the excitement of the tournament, helping you to cheer when Bruno Alves keeps a clean sheet in an otherwise dire third-place playoff.