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Pick a side: why you should watch a film instead of the football

Tom Huddleston

As Euro 2016 kicks off, our critic Tom Huddleston thinks you’d be better off watching a good movie rather than wasting 90 minutes (plus the adverts in the middle) on men running about

Euro 2016 kicked off this week – that’s one whole month of sweaty, overpaid egomaniacs racing around like it means something. With a total of 46 games on offer, you could spend close to 100 hours watching football over the next month – longer if you count all that pre- and post-match gubbins where late-middle-aged crisp salesmen talk about what’s about to happen, what just happened, or what they think ought to have happened but didn’t.

Or – and here’s a thought – you could do something worthwhile. The average film is roughly as long as the average football match – and 46 movies is a whole lot of viewing. It’s all the good Hitchcocks. It’s the entire Martin Scorsese back catalogue, minus the shorts but including the music docs. It’s the top tens of Time Out’s lists of the best horror movies, comedies, sci-fi movies and animated films, with 12 hours left over to put your blown mind back together.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s drama in football. There’s occasionally even excitement. But it’s thin on the ground – a couple of goals per game if you’re lucky, plus one or two close calls. And in between, what? Just guys jogging about. Movies, on the other hand, pack entire worlds – real or invented – into their two hours. They create entire people from scratch – and not lunkheaded sex-mad millionaires, but relatable heroes and villains of all stripes and sizes. They explore the past, the future, the inner workings of the human mind. Some of them even have jokes.

And if you’ve seen one football match, you’ve basically seen them all. Okay, the outcome is always slightly different, and the variables are plentiful. But no one’s going to suddenly explode on the pitch. A spaceship’s unlikely to land, a dinosaur’s almost certainly not about to start eating the players and if two people fall madly in love they’ll probably keep it to themselves.

The people who make movies aren’t perfect. Some of them are thick as planks, most of them think they’re prettier, cooler and smarter than they really are and an awful lot of them are Americans. But compared to footballers  – tabloid-baiting, threesome-having, potato-headed, mullet-modelling footballers – they’re a bunch of handsome geniuses. And that’s before we get to the real power players, the managers and owners who have raped the resources of some far-flung principality so they can plough the proceeds into the beautiful game.

When it comes to the fans, there are obviously idiots on both sides – it’s people who yell racial insults on the tube vs people who threaten women on Twitter because they dared to star in ‘Ghostbusters’. And there are fine folk on both sides too – even, believe it or not, a few mad fools who enjoy both.

But as Europe gears up for a full month of shouting themselves hoarse, I do think we all have to pick a side. You can either join the forces of creativity, empathy and ideas, of art and experience and cultural enrichment. Or you can be on the side of running up and down kicking stuff. Or you can call it a draw and watch ‘Escape to Victory’ 46 times. The ball’s in your court. That is football, right?

If you'd rather film over football, kick things off with our list of the best comedy films

Not convinced? Here are seven ways to see in the Euros

Or, check out the best pubs to watch the football in

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