Beer showers not your bag? Three lions lost on you? Don't worry, we've got your back...
It’s here! It’s really here! That’s right, your first and only chance to celebrate hundreds of despicably overpaid fools with absurd hair diving around and gesticulating wildly at referees in an opulent monument to corruption, homophobia and human rights abuse – until we can go and do it all again in Qatar, of course.
If you don’t like football (if you do - click here) this is a month when it is genuinely flabbergasting to note how little else people talk about, and how difficult it is to get away from. I tried locking myself in the basement, but one of the slugs down there was wearing an England shirt and screaming Lightning Seeds lyrics at me, so I had to leave.
There are, believe it or not though, a few places to go that don’t show the football
The worst part of course, is that the pubs that you know and love stop being pleasant drinking dens and become the stuff of nightmares. Suddenly, it seems like there is nothing you can do except put a blanket over your head and hibernate until the end of July. It’s not all bad though – there are plenty of things to do where even football is unlikely to pop up out of the shadows and volley you in the nethers. Here are my five favourite football escapes in Leeds...
1. Go to the cricket
The best way to avoid a sport, I often find, is to seek solace in another sport. If the histrionics, the hair and the backpfeifengesicht* of football is too much for you to bear, then trade it in for its polar opposite: mild-mannered public schoolboys politely handing hats to each other for several hours. Headingley stadium is one of the world’s best and home to the Yorkshire Vikings every summer, when the T20 blast is on. A whole T20 match takes about three-and-a-half hours, tickets are under £20 and you can drink alcohol in the stands because, well, everyone’s rather pleasant.
Yorkshire Vikings v Durham Jets 5/7/18 / England Women v New Zealand Women 7/7/18 / Yorkshire Vikings v Derbyshire Falcons 11/7/18 - tickets here
2. Go to the cinema
This is one of my favourite things to do during a major football tournament, because you stand a reasonable chance of not being surrounded by people trying to open crisp packets with their elbows for 40 minutes and doing that weird incredibly loud whispering that they are convinced nobody else can hear.
Leeds has been home to the Kirkstall Vue IMAX for a while now, and it’s so loud, digitally impressive and all-consuming that your eyes and ears will bleed – but in a good way. Or, for a more laid-back affair, check out the Hyde Park Picture House – a beautiful, Grade II listed, 100-year old cinema with most of its original features.
3. Go for a walk
It’s summer, the weather is pretty good and it’s light outside until after 10pm. These are all great reasons to go for a nice evening stroll, with the added bonus of much emptier parks than normal. Leeds is home to some absolutely beautiful green spaces, with the Meanwood Valley Trail being a wonderful way to explore some of the more hidden wooded areas before winding up in Golden Acre Park as the sun goes down over the lake. You could even go for a stroll along the canal – most of the murderers will probably be watching the football anyway, so you’ll be alright.
Find your local park here.
4. Go to the gym
I’ll never forget the evening of 11th July 2010. It was the finest trip to the gym I have ever experienced. I went to the Pure Gym next to Leeds Corn Exchange, which was relatively new back then. There wasn’t a single soul there. Finally, I could use all the equipment, sweat over everything and have a freak cardiac arrest in peace and quiet!
If you’re one of the hundreds of people who works regular office hours and only ever attends the gym when it’s so full that it resembles a Tokyo train station, going during the football is absolute bliss. And if you’ve paid extra for a gym with a pool, then you can basically be a Hollywood star with your own private leisure centre for an evening. Heaven.
Then again, if the idea of physical exercise is even more of an abomination than the football, there’s always the opposite of the gym, which brings me on to number 5…
5. Go for a drink
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a serious game of Russian roulette, except it might result in you willingly shooting yourself. There are, believe it or not though, a few places that you can go that don’t show the football. Below Stairs, one of Leeds’ newest and best cocktail bars is so anti-football it lives underground on South Parade. Or you could wander down Briggate to Whitelocks and the adjoining Turk’s Head for some scrumptious screen-free beer. There’s also Head of Steam on Mill Hill, opposite Bundobust – which also doesn’t show football despite specialising in football’s favourite meal; curry.
There are a few others too – in fact, let’s make this a football-hating love-in; let us know of any more pubs and bars that categorically don’t show even a single second of football. It’s for the greater good.
Like football? Well then you're clearly in the wrong place. Click here for 16 places to watch the World Cup in Leeds.
* German – a face that really needs punching