Why Football Is Like An Abusive Husband
The following content refers to what Americans know as soccer. And is mostly NTBTS.
Me: Is it the World Cup soon?
Brother: Er, yes? (/incredulous)
Me: Oh. <pause> When?
Brother: Tomorrow. (/complete disgust)
– The day before the World Cup started
He had every reason to be disgusted. I spent the majority of my teens (and some) being a football-obsessed loon. I even said I was a ‘self-confessed football freak’ in my personal statement when I was applying for university. And then I got my best offer after spending a whole chemistry interview talking a) football, b) my interviewer’s personal life, and c) not chemistry. The World Cup arriving without me noticing is the first time in my brother’s living memory that this has ever happened EVER.
At the age of 15, I couldn’t imagine my life without the Beautiful Game – I couldn’t imagine ever not loving it, needing it or wanting it. The trouble is, I know now what I didn’t know then: people change – I changed – and so do their obsessions.
Like all living things – and an obsession is a living thing, as anyone who’s ever had one will know – while it grows and lives, it must also eventually die: naturally or violently, it will die.
Reasons not to give a toss (do you see what I did there?) about the World Cup
1) No time
While I was an undergraduate, I found myself with less and less time to keep up with it (or go to the gym, but that’s a different story). And – unbelievably! – I had other things to do. That were more important. Who knew priorities could change, just like that?
And strangely…I didn’t even care. Much.
You would have to understand how much I used to care for this to mean anything to you. I had, like, a deep emotional connection to my team: I was wild with joy when they won, and inconsolable if they lost. I lived for them, cried for them (metaphorically – much too macho to REALLY cry), and prayed for them with HEARTFELT SINCERITY. It was ikhlas* to the max, man.
I know, it was bad. Obsessions are blinding. It’s good not to be 15 anymore. Or 17. Or…yeah.
2) It wastes time
Along with having no time, it wasted time that I did have. If I spent roughly two hours glued to the TV – and let’s face it, it was usually more, because everybody knows that the actual match is only HALF the story: the analysis, the reaction, the interviews and then the rehashing of details with fellow fanatics is about as important as the match itself – that’s two hours not doing something useful, not even ironing.
(Lego football is clearly the answer. Condense 90 minutes of drama, goals and emotion into 6! Because you rewatch the 2-minute clip three times…)
I’m all for recreation, but that recreation can’t be at the expense of stuff you have to do. Stuff like ‘change your smelly clothes’, ‘take a shower’, ‘do your laundry’ or ‘feed the kids’. If we spent half as much time PLAYING sports as we did WATCHING them, the world would be a better place. Also healthier and less fat. Did you hear that, England? LESS FAT.
3) Nationalism is blah
Cheering for England means more than just football to me, now. It carries all sorts of hysterical histrionic historical connotations and underwears undertones, and I have feelings and thoughts that are far too mixed up to allow me to cheer unequivocally for any country. England currently falls into one of the ones I’d more cheerfully brain than brainlessly cheer.
Lately, especially, I’m more and more disillusioned by patriotism. What does it mean, to cheer for England? Does it mean I endorse doubtful foreign policies, historical imperialism, the BNP or the EDL? I can hear some people saying, ‘it’s just a game, relax, get over it’, but if it’s only about football, then I can just enjoy the game without cheering for England, right? Having an emotional connection is completely unnecessary.
I’m plagued by the feeling that cheering for England in some way presumes English superiority over any other country purely on the virtue of being English, because I don’t believe that that is true. Patriotism is all a big lie, really, nationalism a disease. Why is such a virulent form of prejudice the only legitimate – nay, laudable – sentiment? Every time I see a St George’s cross hanging out of someone’s window or on their car aerial (which is a LOT OF TIMES), a little bit of my ‘Britishness’ – if I have any – dies.
The fact (in as far as ‘facts’ exist) is, nobody really knows what it means to ‘be British’ or ‘be French’ or ‘be Senegalese’. If it’s about a group of people you identify with on multiple levels, well, I identify more with the diverse and international groups that are ‘Muslims’ or ‘fangirls’ or ‘scientists’ than I do with this nebulous, amorphous geographically-bound group that is ‘British’. The only thing you can say I definitely have in common with every British person is that I’m British, too: that classification predicts nothing else, not even a common language or a predilection for fish and chips. It doesn’t make sense to group people on the basis that their place of birth or residence is something that overarchingly colours their sense of self or way of life. After all, you don’t expect a couple of people to be like:
girlolcat: oh hai I’m British!
boilolcat: I’m British too, we can has marriage?
girlolcat: o rly u Brutish? Shore we can has marriage! yay
boilolcat: okai less haff marriage! i do i do, do u?
girlolcat: ya ya i do k?
No? No. Does not work that way. Does not even START that way. So get a brain! MORANS.
4) ‘It’s not just a game, it’s a religion’
Bill Shankly famously said, ‘some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.’
It really is.
I’m glad I never lost my head so much that I actually wore or wanted to wear a cross. You know, that being rather haram. But I do see many a Muslim with their red devils (devils! You’d think that would be a clue, right?) and their red crosses of St. George flying all around them, and I think, you guys actually have no idea that that is seriously haram – bordering on shirk,** if not actually so.
This is a large part of why I don’t have any nostalgia for like, my lost youth (XD). As a wise fictional character was wont to say, ‘one horse cannot wear two saddles’. Truesay. I don’t have the room in my life for the commitment football demands. There are more important things I want to devote myself to than eating football, sleeping football and drinking Coca Cola – more important things to fangirl wake up in the morning for. And frankly, being a Muslim takes up all my time. Football’s place in that is only as passing entertainment, not an all-absorbing, consuming passion that demands its own ikhlas.*
And at the end of it all, ENGLAND WILL LET YOU DOWN. God won’t. And that right there is a reason why I prefer to be one of those believers: the ones most people think are a little bit weird, a little bit mad, and a lotta bits trippin’. But you tell me who’s trippin’ when…actually, that takes us, finally, to:
5) England never win. Ever. EVER. EVERRRRR!!11!@1
We get all excited with every goal England score, sure that that’s the winner, we’re unbeatable, we’re never going down, we’re the greatest – oh yes! They LOOK like they’re winning. For about 17 minutes. And then they get cocky and let one – or two or six – in and that’s that – proving over and over AND OVER the truth a friend loves to lambast me with: ‘football is a game you play for 90 minutes, and then Germany wins.’
Supporting England is like being a BATTERED WIFE. You look to them for love and strength and, like, gifts, and all the while they abuse you, emotionally and physically. But you can’t bring yourself to leave them, or abandon them to themselves. Some inexplicable fusion of duty, love and need ties you to them, no matter what they put you through.
And really, no woman – or man – deserves to go through so much hell for so little lovin’ back. It just stops being worth it.
* Ikhlas: sincerity in faith. It’s a specific term that refers to…the grade of your Muslim petrol (gas), if you were, like, a car.
** ‘Shirk’ is not the same as the English ‘shirk’, but an Arabic term pronounced a little differently that describes the act of ascribing any partnership to God, or taking something else equally to Him. It’s the worst thing a Muslim can do, and takes them right out of Islam. We respect the Christian cross, but consider it beyond what is allowable for ourselves, to adopt a defining symbol of a different faith.