Bored with the World Cup? Take another look.

Football has probably taught me more about people and psychology than anything else ever has.

I mentioned the World Cup to a friend of mine last week.

She didn’t know it was on.World Cup - Harry Kane England - what I've learned from football

I can understand that, I suppose, if you live on Mars, don’t receive newspapers or have the internet, but she was none of these things.

I think the point was: she doesn’t care. Football and the World Cup in particular are, for her, rather silly and macho. Over-paid men chasing a ball and a lot of rather shallow men shouting loudly as they do so.

Fashionable to put down football and supporters

Hers is an opinion I’ve heard many times – particularly this week. It’s fashionable to put down football and football supporters. Easy to stand back and be cleverer than that.

Let’s set aside the fact that football is played and followed by women. Many of them not over-paid or shallow.

It’s interesting that it’s OK to be snooty about the World Cup, but not – say – about opera. My friend loves opera, as it happens. I wondered what she’d have said if I’d described opera in a similar way.

World Cup brouhaha

Indeed, football and opera have a great deal in common. They’re both big, noisy, often stunning, equally often dire and embarrassing. You can witness quite breathtaking physical skill, and equally breathtaking ineptness.

But – and it’s easy to forget amid the brouhaha – they’re also entertaining.

And the primary source of entertainment for me, at least, is the psychology of the people involved. Nowhere else can you see so many different people put under extremes of pressure in such a short space of time. Except possibly in drama – but this is real life. Real life played out in real time – in front of millions.

I’ve seen courage and cowardice, dignity and embarrassment, selfishness and altruism.

You can never tell who will stand up to the stress and who will buckle. Who will learn from their mistakes and who will try to hide.

I’ve learned about how events unfold – when beginnings can prefigure endings – and when they don’t.

I’ve learned a great deal about the difference between bravado and bravery, between cleverness and skill.

I’ve seen character revealed in a split-second.

It’s not for everyone. What is? But where else can you get a month’s worth of insight into what makes us human?

For free.