From Monday, the World Cup in Qatar begins in earnest, and millions of Britons will be faced with the same problem: how to watch the football at work discreetly.

One poll found that nearly half of the country’s workforce would not be allowed to watch games during business hours, but a fifth of those surveyed said they would find a way nevertheless.

It helps that many matches are happening at lunchtime, including England’s opener against Iran, but here are some obvious dos and don’ts for supporters keen to watch the action without getting caught in the act.

Practice your poker face

An unexpected roar of glee from the sedentary position is an obvious giveaway. If your side have scored, maintaining an entirely neutral face is crucial to keeping up the appearance of work. Similarly, a sudden slump on to your desk, head in hands, accompanied by an involuntary groan, might suggest to fellow workers that you are not working on that all-important document for HR – instead, your side have just gone one down.

The carefully timed meeting

Given that most people can take a break at 1ish, you are entitled to watch some of the lunchtime games over a sandwich. That will probably only take you to the end of the first half, though, so the key period is just after lunch – the 45 minutes from 2pm. Scheduling meetings with like-minded supporters who have also practised their poker faces might be one way of seeing the game through to the end without arousing suspicions.

Rear-view mirrors

Cyclists can choose from an array of mini rear-view mirrors to help them avoid traffic coming up unexpectedly from behind. These small devices may also be handy for office workers keen not to be caught unawares by the sudden appearance of a colleague on their shoulder.

‘Command and M’ – or equivalent

For those unable to escape the office, this is absolutely vital – and requires practice. Watching on a desktop computer is fraught with danger, even for those who have bought rear-view mirrors. However, there are ways to make what you are watching disappear in a nanosecond. On Apple computers, hitting the command and M keys at the same time will quickly hide the front window whenever the boss is in sight. Ideally, have a daunting-looking spreadsheet open at the same time.

Plan ahead

It may be optimistic for England and Wales fans to already be thinking about the knockout stages, but there is good news for any team getting that far: all the eliminator games are on evenings or weekends.

The World Cup final is on Sunday 18 December at 3pm GMT. Just don’t book the next day off work just yet.



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