The fan - Hunter Davies thinks Cameroon's new strip is a bit poofy

When players make a mistake, Africans don't boo. They just laugh

During three weeks in the West Indies, all I caught was ten minutes of a Juventus game in De Reef Beach Bar on Bequia, peering over the heads of about a hundred people, most of them dancing. I knew it was Juve. Like Newcastle United, you can recognise their strip a hundred yards away - on a black-and-white telly, on the blink, through a crowd, on a titchy screen, even after five rum punches.

We had a cottage on that beach, just one room, but elsewhere we were in posh hotels, the Crane in Barbados and the Carlisle Bay in Antigua, both of which turned out to have tellies in the rooms; huge things, flat screens, satellite-connected. I was well made up, well pleased.

"Just you dare turn that thing on," said my dear wife, "even for one second, and I'm off."

So that was it. The result was that I came home totally ignorant of vital, important, world-shattering events, such as Saha going to Man U, Parker to Chelsea, Reyes to Arsenal, Defoe to Spurs, CUFC winning some games. Strange, though - while we've been away, no well-known manager has had the push or thrown out his rattle. Usually happens. Usually Kevin Keegan.

I had noticed Reyes's flair while he was at Seville, but it's still a surprise, him being Spanish and that. Can't think of another Spaniard in the works, not Premiership; the Spanish league is so good. But it's also to do with history, geography and culture. The connections with us have never been there, unlike Scandinavia and Africa.

You can see it in the African Cup of Nations, where the leading teams seem to be full of Premiership players, or exes. I'm so pleased to have got back to watch some of the games, though it was hard, what with the jet lag, to work out what BBC3 is and where it was lurking.

African footer is fascinating, such fun, so much to observe. And not just on the pitch. Mark Pougatch, for example, fresh from Radio 5 Live. With his specs and well-modulated public-school tones, he looks like Harry Potter's dad. Then Glenn Roeder popped up, proof that he is still alive. And not wearing a suit. Tut tut, Glenn. He was wearing a pullover his mum bought him. Lovely man, so my good friend Gazza tells me, salt of the wotsit, but Gawd, does he drone on.

Most African supporters, apart from the Tunisians, don't sing and chant at football, not the way we do, with the same tunes now being heard all over Europe. Perhaps our connections with Africa are all one way. Instead, groups of them bang drums, blow whistles and hooters, laugh and jump about. I noticed this when I was once in Cameroon. When a player made a mistake, they didn't boo, but laughed at him. Must be very hurtful.

The pitches are quite good, the general standard about lower Premiership, sort of Spurs level, ie, not much cop. The TV pictures come through some French-speaking station, judging by the graphics and subtitles. I love the dancing ball when they give the team formation. So nice to get a different flavour to our TV football coverage.

Best thing of all has been Cameroon's new strip. Couldn't keep my eyes off it. Is it a Babygro or what? The shirt and shorts are all in one, like a catsuit. How do they get it on, when they all have monster thighs and necks? I decided that there must be a zip on the shoulder, so they can climb into it, then zip it up. I bet it's hellish hot inside, and very sweaty, though judging by the number of African players wearing gloves, it probably feels quite parky for equatorial Africans. I was once in Tunisia in March and it was bloody cold, too cold to swim.

I gather the authorities aren't keen on Cameroon's new strip, just as they were against the sleeveless T-shirts they wore a couple of years ago. That was so macho, letting their muscles bulge. This time, with the skin-tight material, their all-in-one gear has looked, well, a bit poofy. Not, of course, that anyone would ever say such a thing to their faces.

I so wanted them to get to the final - and win. Swapping shirts would have been interesting. And very revealing . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2004 issue of the New Statesman, The new serfs