The fan - Hunter Davies watches Spurs in the Med
Yes, Premiership football is watched all over the world - by the Brits
Pathetic, really, going all that way, spending all that money to stay at the wonderful Elounda Beach Hotel, the sun shining on the blue Mediterranean outside, and there we were last week, sitting inside, watching Man Utd v Spurs on the telly in a bar. Later, on the way back from Crete, I did my usual family quiz, asking everyone to give marks out of five for the best meal, best thing. My son put watching Spurs in that bar in his top three things. I didn't go that far. I do have standards. But it made my top five.
I was distracted, while watching the game, by all the British football shirts hanging on every wall. I counted 200, each carefully mounted to display the front. I spotted Carlisle Utd's, miles out of date, the Eddie Stobart deckchair one they haven't worn for years, but at least CUFC was represented.
I wondered how the owner had managed to get a shirt from every British club. They cost at least £35 these days, which comes to £7,000 worth. I suppose he gets it back by filling his bar with pathetic Brit fans on their hols.
When we first entered the bar, the three monster TV screens, each the size of my house, were showing a Greek game, a German game, plus Spurs. The owner soon sussed out the nature of the audience who happened to have wandered in that day and switched all three screens to Spurs. Oh bliss.
They always boast that the Premier League is watched all over the world, which from my awfully long experience of the globe, is true. I don't think I've failed to discover some English football somewhere on local TV. They then boast it's therefore the world's most popular league. Foreign fans love its speed, energy, excitement, crowds, blah blah.
I think that's not true. From my long experience, etc, it's Brits abroad, in bars and hotels, who are mainly watching it, pathetic creatures that we are.
I was once on my hols in Turkey. The TV lounge was absolutely chocka for a local Turkish game, standing room only, all the Turks screaming and shouting. After it came the English Cup Final, which was what I'd come to watch, beamed to 550 different countries, plus Mars, so we are told every year. The room immediately emptied. I watched it on my own.
In that Elounda harbour-side bar, there were only about 20 people, quietly watching, all of whom I took to be Brits. Judging by their reactions, almost all were Spurs fans.
It was the last week of October, the end of Crete's tourist season. In the hotels, bars, taxis, they'd been working for seven months, non-stop, seven days a week. Now they were about to close for five months. They get some unemployment pay from the government over the winter, when they are not picking olives or doing a bit of fishing, till the cycle starts again.
It had been a good season, so all the locals said, and people in the tourist business rarely admit that. They put it down to the Olympics and Greece winning the Euro Nations Championship, two events which had put the country on the map, creating a knock-on effect.
Now, there was an end-of-season feeling, the crowds gone, the staff relaxed, life slowing down. The handful of Spurs fans were being treated to endless plates of crisps and nuts, hoping we'd stay all evening, if not all week.
At half-time, I worked out who the owner was and asked him how much he paid, and to whom, for the TV rights. They show all Sky games live, even ones we don't see in Britain till much later. That can happen in Britain, but is usually done illegally. He wouldn't tell me how much, but he said it was beamed in via another country and was quite expensive.
I then asked about his shirts. Had he gone to the UK and bought them personally, or got them mail order? Neither. Apart from two, they had all been given. Fans visit his bar, look around for their team's strip. If they don't see it, they strip off and donate the one they are wearing. If by some oversight they have gone on holiday not wearing their team's shirt, tut tut, they donate one the following year, coming back specially. Now is that also pathetic? Course not. It's pride, innit.