I hate football. Sort of.
I hate a lot of the things the game has become. The disgusting amounts of money involved. The celebrity. The sometime cheating on and off the pitch. Some of the media and how they portray the game. The bribery and extraordinary corruption of some of its ruling bodies.
I could go on.
But I love a lot of the things to do with football too. Being at live games. Watching it on TV. Listening to it on the radio. Reading about it. It suffuses my life and has done for three-and-a-half decades. It is a love that runs deep. A love that brings me as much pleasure as it does pain.
The heroes of my National Literacy Trust World Cup story, Foul Play: Brazil hate football too.
Danny and Charlotte love the game, really. Like me. But they hate how the game they love has been perverted. Like me. And maybe like you. And millions of others.
This boy and girl – aged 15 – are the heroes of five Foul Play books published by Puffin. They are crime fighters. They take on the corrupters of football. The wrong-doers.
Fictional, of course. But very much based on real things that go on. Real things that annoy me.
* a phoney football agent in Ghana who is exploiting and trafficking young footballers to Europe (Off Side)
* an Italian football club owner who uses his satellite TV channels to brainwash children into supporting one major team, not their local team (Own Goal)
* a British football chairman who kidnaps his own star player so that he can sell extra merchandise (Foul Play)
All the crimes in the series are based on real things that happen in a game that some call beautiful, but to a lot of outsiders seems ugly. Danny and Charlotte investigate these crimes. They want to make football beautiful again.
I want my daughter, 10, to love football during this World Cup. She is the perfect age to fall in love with the game, through a World Cup she might remember for the rest of her life. I don’t want her to wonder why I like a game that has hateful things about it. I want it to bring her joy. That’s why I set Danny and Charlotte off to clean up the game.
A chapter of Foul Play: Brazil will be published free on www.literacytrust.org.uk every weekday morning during the World Cup. It will be read aloud in at least 3000 schools.
Thank you for reading.