So, we’re closing in on the World Cup. I’m excited. Which fan of the game isn’t? But then, I’m also prepared to spend a good part of the summer grinding my teeth. Because, every time a big sporting event comes around, these faltoo fans crawl out of the woodwork. They didn’t know anything about the game before. They will lose all interest in the game after. But for the duration of the tournament, they want the world to know that the game can boast no fans greater or more knowledgeable than they.
It hardly matters in cricket, because there are so many World Cups in so many formats these days that there’s one every few months. Then, there’s the Indian Premier League, which feels like a World Cup because all the cricketers who are not busy with ads or politics land up there. But, football…oh, football. Every four years, everyone’s ‘crazy’ about ‘the beautiful game’.
They have no clue which player plays for which club, or which position each plays in, or whether any get along with their managers. All they know about football is:
(a) Pele is from Brazil. Supporting Brazil is the default option if you don’t know football, because your father asks you to, because his father asked him to, because Pele was a sensation when your Dadaji read the papers.
(b) Messi is awesome; in fact, it’s a good idea to buy a dog or cat before the World Cup and name it ‘Messi’.
Anyone called ‘Ronaldo’ is likely to be a sensation
But they will switch on their televisions at the opening ceremony, and start lapping up the commentary, so that they can say something that sounds original – or, even better, clichéd – to their co-workers the next day.
They will also make a show of being sleepy at work, because they were “watching the match”. The problem is, they feel obliged to watch every match, and also to support a team in each, in order to make a convincing show of disappointment or triumph. Sadly, they get their choices wrong, and then get their analysis wrong. “It’s so strange. Senegal defeated France when they were world champions, and they didn’t even qualify this time. They could have been champions!”
I feel sorry for this lot. What are they supposed to think? You look at the last four World Cups, and you have no clue which team is good and which one isn’t. So, Turkey did really well in 2002. And after that, they didn’t qualify. Uruguay? How can you call yourself a fan, when you’re not sure how to pronounce it? Any team from Europe is a safe bet, right? But what the hell do you do when they play a team from South America or Africa? Mummy! These poor things are in a constant state of panic, and so they listen to the commentary carefully. During the boring matches, the commentators will amuse themselves by saying something about the knockout stages.
This leads the faltoo fans to worry about the Group of Death – there’s always a Group of Death. When those group matches are on, this lot will walk about looking as if they’re gearing up to recite the alphabet backwards while simultaneously solving a 5X5 Rubik’s Cube and submitting to a rectal examination, and the successful completion of these three tasks will entitle them to American citizenship.
These faltoo fans fall into four categories:
The Fairweather Football Girl: The sole purpose of her existence is to embarrass her gender. You spend a lifetime following sports, only to have your reputation undermined by this girl sororitising with you in the presence of men. “Don’t you think Yildiray Basturk is hot? I know he’s not a good player, but I like how he looks,” one purred to me, in 2002. I redeemed myself with, “Actually, it’s the other way round.” In 2010, one cackled, “I supported Spain in 2008 too. I remember you also did. Don’t you think David Villa is hot?” I don’t know. Why don’t you go collect the copious amount of spit he spews, manipulate his DNA and have his babies, instead of trying to bond with me?
Statistics Boy: It doesn’t matter that he started watching football a quarter century after you did. He has pored over the numbers, and he will explain why Pele was more talented than Maradona by giving you averages – goals per match, total caps, relative merits of teammates, and so on. He will close with “Hand of God”.
[quote]Until 2014, ‘Brazil’ reminded her of waxing, not football[/quote]
The Football Uncle: So, when he was your age, television was black and white, and so fuzzy you’d be lucky to tell the teams apart, leave alone the players. But he knows your Messi-Vessi is nowhere near the “true greats”, and he will hold forth on it every time you get up without cramping and creaking.
The Football Aunty: No Aunty is good news. A Sports Aunty is worse news. But the Football Aunty is a whole other level. She’s the mum who wants to be cool, who hopes to be mistaken for her balding husband’s daughter. Until 2014, ‘Brazil’ reminded her of waxing, not football. But now, she believes the way to a MILF label is through feeding her sulking son’s friends plates of namkeen and watching football with them. Here she is, rooting for the team playing against her son’s favourite. His friends will cheer her to embarrass the poor sod. She will feel flattered. When the World Cup is over, she will scream at her son, and ask how he’s going to be a doctor like his cousin if he watches sports all the time.