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If I could meet the 10-year-old me, the first thing I would do would be to ruffle his hair. Memories of those long-lost follicles would make such a course of action simply irresistible. But after I had got over my nostalgia for a fully-thatched noggin, I would sit him down and tell him about how we experience football 30 years in the future.
I can picture his bewilderment as I explain all the avenues on offer to the modern follower of the game. His eyes would surely widen - as my own son’s do now at the thought of new Lego - as I outline the concept of streaming a game to your iPhone. He’s a smart kid, I know, but might such a possibility be beyond the grasp of this Calcio crazy schoolboy of 1980?
Nowadays if we can’t find a satellite channel or internet feed of every match down to the Bosnian boys Under 16 championships we feel cheated. Back then you simply had to take it on the chin. The only chance of seeing the Italian national team in action for those living in the UK was maybe if they played one of the Home Nations or, more likely, every couple of years at a major championships. If Italy missed out, the wait might be even longer.
Some things, however, have not changed. The younger me still had a wallchart and the Panini sticker album to faithfully start filling in but never quite complete. There are, however, distinctly fewer trading partners in the present-day workplace than there were back in the school playground. Nobody, it seems, wants to do swapsies during their tea break.
Back in those pioneering times, there were still ways to get information from Italy about the Azzurri’s preparations but they took a little more effort. A subscription to Monday’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport brought news - usually about three or four days late. A satellite dish to pick up Rai broadcasts was still a few years off but a shortwave radio and the patience of a saint would allow some details to be gleaned.
Back in the day as I moved from primary towards secondary school, there was little mention of Italy in the UK press. And what there was tended to be pretty derogatory and generally fall into stereotype. Those were my formative years in following football and I built up a defence mechanism to instinctively fight against any criticism of Calcio - justified or not.
That has stayed with me to this day even though now we are pretty much free to pick how we sample our matches. You can probably watch in just about any language you want and, even on the most remote hillside, you are almost never out of range of knowing the scores. Thanks to Twitter, you can even feel part of a worldwide community of descendants of Italian emigrants who share your joy and suffering of the Azzurri’s fate.
Sometimes, I wonder if we actually turn up to experience a game any more or simply to brag to friends that we were there. With all the desperate waving of iPhones or other devices to try to capture footage, how much attention do we pay to living the moment? Instead, it sometimes feels, we’re more interested in posting video or pictures on social media than just enjoying the spectacle.
There is nothing wrong with taking a picture or two or filming a few moments for posterity but when did that become more important than the game itself? You can occasionally feel surrounded more by technology-freaks than fans. I count myself among their number at times. A thought crosses my mind and I get the unbearable urge to inflict it on my followers on Twitter.
All this does not mean things were better or worse in years gone by, just that they were different. I’m pretty sure that in three more decades, we will be using some technology I cannot even imagine to follow the game. But if I come back in time to tell the 42-year-old me all about it, hair-ruffling will definitely not be an option.