In 2011, Michael Pattinson set a new Guinness World Record, having attended the most live sporting events, with a total of 662 matches. The 54-year-old from London has a special place in his heart for professional soccer. His collection of scarves, posters, and trophies makes an interesting display, and he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. We caught up with Michael to discuss his love for England’s soccer team and his favorite book.
Who is your favorite soccer player of all time?
It’s always going to be Pele, because he is my favorite player. And then there’s always going to be Bobby Moore, because I was fortunate enough to witness his greatness at close hand. When I was growing up, he scored the winning goal in the 1972 European Cup Final, which will never be forgotten. It was a golden moment for English football.
Nowadays, I follow English soccer more than any other sport. I try to get as much information as I can, mainly through watching games and reading articles about the team. And it’s always going to be strange to see a World Cup without England involved in some way. It’s like a huge part of my life is missing, and it hurts. I feel cheated that I couldn’t go to the 1966 World Cup, even though I was only nine years old. I’m sure that if I’d been old enough, I would have applied for citizenship, just so I could have traveled to the tournament. But I digress.
What is your favorite soccer-related book or DVD?
It’s always going to be either Good-bye to Football or Hey, Ref! It depends on whether I’m feeling nostalgic or whether I’m feeling more of a comment on the officiating in general. As a former player and captain, I have a bit of a beef with some of the referees. With a team like Liverpool, there’s always going to be a lot of yellow cards. We challenge a lot of calls, so it makes for entertaining reading or viewing whenever we play. We always like to think outside of the box when it comes to the match officials’ decisions. It doesn’t always work, but we have a lot of fun attempting to trick the referees anyway.
For those looking for information on how to become a referee, I recommend Good-bye to Football. It’s one of the definitive guides on the subject and includes a lot of useful tips from top to bottom. And it’s not just about becoming a referee. It’s about understanding the game and developing as a player. When I was growing up, nobody ever talked about becoming a referee or how to become a better one. It was always either play soccer or go to university and study law. But nowadays, it’s a completely different story. You can go through a whole career and never get a call. That’s what really upsets me. You’d think that after 60 years of the sport, the officials would know how to referee a game by now. But I guess not. They need a manual to remind them. Or they just need a good slap upside the head.
What is the strangest/most memorable fan incident you’ve ever experienced while playing or watching soccer?
It’s hard to choose just one. I was refereeing a youth match not long ago, and one parent complained about my decisions. So I gave them each a piece of paper and a pen. I told them to write down five reasons why they thought I was wrong. And it was hilarious. One mom wrote down something about how I shouldn’t allow my players to dribble with the ball at their feet, since it can lead to them being injured. And another simply wrote: “We want a different referee.” It was great, because you’ve got the parents of the opposing team protesting without them even knowing it. It was like mind games. And it was a lot of fun.
What is the most memorable goal or moment you’ve witnessed while watching English soccer?
There are so many that I could choose from. When you’re a fan of any sport, it’s always going to be special when your team scores a goal. But when you’re a fan of English soccer, it’s always going to be different. The celebrations that follow a goal are incredible, and they can be as exciting as the goal itself. When I see a game, I always look out for when Liverpool score a goal. It’s funny, because I know that many of the fans don’t like my team, but that doesn’t matter. A goal is a goal is a goal.
I also love English soccer because of all of the colorful characters that play for the different clubs. I’ve never seen a game where the fans weren’t involved somehow. Even if you despise your team, you’re still going to have fun. That’s what makes English soccer so special. And it keeps me coming back for more.
You’ve got a lot of soccer memorabilia in your house. Does anything on this list mean something to you?
It’s funny, I never really kept track of how many pieces of memorabilia I had. It’s always been a bit of an obsession, ever since I was a kid. When I see all of this stuff now, it’s just like a dream come true. It would fit perfectly in a football museum. When I lived in London, my garage was literally filled with all of these trophies and medals. It’s crazy how much sport has changed in the last few years. Back in the day, we used to keep our trophies above the fireplace, where everybody could see them. But nowadays, nobody pays attention to the fireplace. People just use it for decoration. It’s like the garage was filled with old equipment and discarded clothing, with only the ball as a centerpiece. Nowadays, the garage is filled with new cars and bikes. It’s nice that the sports world has changed with the times, but at the same time it’s sad that I don’t get to keep track of all of this anymore. When I do a garage cleanout, I’m always going to wonder how many times I’ve won the European Cup.
If you could have dinner with any soccer player who ever lived (past or present), who would it be?
Hmm… this is always a tough one. When I was a teenager, I used to always dream about having dinner with famous soccer players. It was always strange, because I never really felt that I knew them or even saw them often enough to have a real conversation with them. There were just a few that I remembered, like Pele and Johan Cruyff. It was strange to even think about having dinner with them, since they were mostly just famous for being famous. But it was fun to think about, mainly because my parents always used to tell me that I’d be famous one day, too. And maybe that will happen, for a while at least. But I don’t really know how to act around any of these athletes now. I feel like I’ve known them forever, even though I’ve only just started following the sport. It’s funny how many famous soccer players there are that I’ve never even heard of. But I guess that’s how it should be, since I’m only following the sport now, and it wasn’t always like that. Back when I was a kid, there was no question that I would one day play for the English national team. It was something that I was born to do.
I remember when I first started playing football, I would always look up to those that I saw as role models. One of the first players that I looked up to was Kenny Dalglish. He was already a manager by the time I started playing for Arsenal, but back in the day he was a really influential player. I used to love watching him score goals, and it would make me want to go out and play, too. He was a big inspiration, and it wasn’t just about playing football. It was about being able to lead a life that I thought was only available to professional athletes.
Do you have any advice for aspiring soccer players?
Try and stay in good physical shape. It’s always a pain when you see a player who isn’t in good shape, and it shows on the field. It makes it harder for you to perform at your best, so constantly stay fit is important. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It’s not something that most players do, but it’s a great way to improve your game. And last but not least, have fun! Playful is important, too. We’re humans and we need to have fun. It’s a very demanding job, and I don’t think that anybody should ever take it seriously. When you do, it shows on the field. So have fun, have fun, have fun.