Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Ball


Love it or hate it we - there isn't going to be any escaping it - we are in for a feast of Football! I have never really understood the point of 22 men chasing a ball around at pitch watched by anything up to sixty thousand chanting fans. As I understand it the two teams kick the ball from one end of the pitch to another in the hope of it landing in the back of a net strung between 2 posts - the goal. When this miracle happens the players throw their arms around one another do aeroplane impressions or get down on their knees,turn their eyes skywards and thank God. As does the crowd who go into raptures, chanting and cheering and blowing the newest addition to the game - the ungodly Vuvusela. This is all overseen by the 'ref' - a most unpopular nerd who is never going to win Mr Personality. He struts around with a whistle and a set of cards that he uses as a kind of semaphore. yellow cards as a warning and the red card is waved to send the player for an early bath. At this point the crowd get very stirred up, jeering and making accusations that the referee has no father. The gum-chewing suits on the bench jump up and down, pointing fingers and making accusations that the referee is partially sighted - then clutching their heads in their hands they return to the bench and chew harder.
All of this not only makes sense but is found entertaining by two billion soccer crazy fans world wide.

I happened to marry one of them. When I married him, I had no idea that he had inbuilt radar that could detect which channel was showing soccer nor did I know that there is a game being televised at any given time day or night. I thought he may grow out of it ,but no, his passion for soccer is as fervent as ever as is the following of his team, although he no longer sleeps in his teams colours,he still wears his scarf when watching the game at the weekend. His team have fallen from the top of the league but he has been faithful to them for more years than he has known and been faithful to me, and he wont be changing anytime soon. When they last got into the cup final he managed to locate possibly the only other fan in South Africa and they sat and watched it together on the settee, dressed in claret and blue and with tears in their eyes. It was a touching sight!

We once went on a romantic holiday to the Comores, not a common destination you will agree. As luck would have it the only other man on the island who could speak English supported the same team and they spent ten days reminiscing and were able to give a goal by goal account of every game that the team had ever played. I recognised the desperate look in his wife's eyes and we hit it off immediately. The romantic beach walks, dawn swimming in the clear azure waters and sultry nights sipping cocktails were enjoyed by both us - her and I that is - while our husbands talked soccer.

At the other end of the world, on a trip to the UK, I sat through two matches on one day - Boxing Day 1998 - I won't forget the date in a hurry as it was -1 degree as we sat on the terraces. The stadium was vast and the pitch resembled a table football game, the player Lilliputions running around kicking a tiny ball. The noise was deafening and the atmosphere electric. I had taken a tartan blanket for warmth to drape elegantly on my knees. It had moves up to my shoulders by half time and by the end of the game I was wearing it with only my eyes exposed - frozen to the spot. Husband of course kept very warm with all the jumping up and down - arms waving madly as he accused the referee of having no father - or a mother as I remember.

Back to the 2010 World Cup - there are many prophets of doom saying that we will fail as a nation and will be the laughing stock of the world but I don't think so. The stadiums are built, the teams already training in readiness. The fans will come determined to enjoy some good soccer and have a good time. The press will be there to do themselves and the game justice. My husband will be on the couch at home wearing his trusted scarf and I - well if you cant beat then, join them - I will be sat with him - perhaps knitting my own scarf!

1 comment:

  1. I plan to be in the garden, tending my seedlings, ignoring the World Cup for the duration. The election is bad enough and they don't even have balls!

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