I spent a long tube journey today reading the newspaper articles and special supplements about tonight’s Champions’ League Final football match between Manchester United and Barcelona. I’m not much of a sports fan, but anything can become interesting once you take the trouble to know something about it, and I can see that in any team sport played to a high level there’s the same fascination as there is in chamber music: the intense collaboration between talented people dependent on one another’s reflexes and powers.
As I read, I wondered what it must be like to have 200 million people waiting to watch on television, thousands of supporters flying out to Rome to attend the match, and thousands more taking time off work to fly to Italy without even having tickets for the match, knowing they will end up watching it on a screen in a field somewhere, but just wanting ‘to be near’. I can hardly imagine. In my line of work, there are passionate supporters and people determined to get to particular concerts, but their numbers are …. well, let’s say they are in the hundreds at most. We did once have a few music students camped in the churchyard at the Peasmarsh Festival, but I can’t say their behaviour caused the local police to tremble. No, we can’t compete with Man U. Yet I can’t believe there is less skill or value in what we do, and I still think lots more people would enjoy it if they gave it a chance.