All over the UK, football fans are glued to their screens, watching the drama unfold in high definition. At Gibraltar Nursing Home, in Monmouth, it is no different. They call their residents, Family Members, and in numerous lounges, they have TVs on, showing the World Cup matches.
One of those Family Members is 80-year-old, George Jarvis, known as John to his friends. He is an ardent West Ham and England fan, and lives in care at the home and his long-term football memories are still strong.
In 1949 he played for West Ham Boys after a scout noticed him kicking a ball around. When asked what position he played, George had said “All of them”
The scout smiled down at him saying “We’ve got a right cocky one ‘ere. You can start next week!”
When asked why football was so popular in this country, George didn’t hesitate.
“Because it’s so easy to play. All you need is a ball and some friends to play with. You don’t need proper equipment – You just make goalposts from coats”
The fact that a third of England’s 1966 World Cup team, including Martin Peters, Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles, now have dementia and Ray Wilson recently passed away with it, highlights how common the condition is, affecting 1 in 6 people over 80. Happily, George is unaffected by it.
I asked him who he thought would win. He paused and smiled as if to make sure he’d heard me correctly. His voice was soft and clear.
“There’s no choice is there? England. It’s got to be England”
He turned to look at me.
“I mean, we invented the game, didn’t we?”