When I was a teenager I used to follow the FA results, and was a mild Manchester United fan, and used to enjoy Arsenal as well. This was before I actually know where and what Manchester really was: an ugly industrial city in the Midlands. I had no scope of reference.
In 1990 (or was it '91?) I visited my sister in Namibia on a brief holiday. The Soccer World Cup was on, and Diego Maradona was the star of the entire cup. He was short, stocky and dribbled like a madman – dribbled the ball, that is. I was watching a game – Argentina against some or other country – and Maradona was dribbling away at the ball. He had already left whoever the defender was far behind when… Diego takes the biggest dive EVER! He thought that the defender was still following him, but there was no-one near him! That moment altered my view of soccer irrevocably.
I only realised then that soccer players used deception and dishonesty to get the referee to award penalties. How I had overlooked that before I have no idea, but I guess that because Maradona was so prominent during that time I couldn't miss his attempted foul. But that was it. The beautiful game had lost its lustre in an instant. For the first time I saw footballers for what they really were: gifted athletes who were more motivated by money than anything else – overpaid egomaniacs with few moral values. I am generalising, of course, but that's how I've viewed all footballers ever since.
I've harboured a similar view towards professional golfers as well. I think it's an outrage what they get paid to clobber a ball around a fairway. When you consider the impact they have on the world (aside from the environmental impact – they fly everywhere) compared to, say, a nurse in an emergence ward. Golfers are in it for the money, and their remuneration in disproportionate to the impact they have on humanity and the world. But that's another rant for another day…
With the FIFA World Cup kicking off tomorrow I still fail to feel the least bit excited. How can I? To me the whole thing feels like a sham, with a few individuals making millions, and the great unwashed masses pay for it. I may sound like an absolute elitist pig, but I view soccer as a game 'for the masses', the great unwashed, the low. To me even rugby is more cerebral than soccer. Rugby is more technical, more enjoyable to watch, more honest. Soccer is a gentleman's game played by hooligans, rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen… or whatever.
I came across this article today, and it sums up my feeling towards the World Cup. It is by Chris McEvoy. Some may view it as cynical and unpatriotic, but I view it as cynical and realist. Please don't sue me for quoting, Chris! I am omitting some of your piece – the bits about your school days – but the rest is quoted verbatim:
"Because I care so little about the football that I still call it soccer, I’m at a bit of a loss for a column subject this week.
Sure, I could always whine like a whitey about it, but I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t support the sporting event that has transformed my neighbourhood into a nightmare.
Actually, I’m all for it. Really, I am – at least in principle. I hope the stadia, hotels, restaurants and bars across the country are filled like sardine cans with visitors, packing oodles of their yummy foreign money. I also hope that they have a safe and fantastic time before they bugger off back to whatever godforsaken hole they come from. And although I wouldn’t bet one five cents on it, I hope Bafana Bufoona don’t get slaughtered like eleven plumped-up bunny rabbits, frozen in the headlights of an oncoming Transformer.
But that’s where it ends. My support for the World Cup is much like my attitude to voting. I feel it’s my civic duty to be positive - but this doesn’t mean I’m going to wear a stupid hat, buy a cheap-ass car flag that disintegrates in a light breeze or even consider attempting the über-embarrassing diski dance, which, like the Macarena that came before it, seems to exist simply to make fools out of everyone.
It’s fitting that the meme has been dubbed 'World Cup fever'. It’s a cultural contagion, passed on through advertising and peer pressure to create a pandemic among susceptible sheeple. Symptoms include spending disposable income on football-related junk, talking to everyone within earshot about the football – the equivalent of an infectious sneeze, in this analogy – and publically ostracising anyone with a resistant immune system. Commerce is the carrier, contaminating anyone with cash without necessarily being infected themselves. Business-folk don’t have to be overwhelmed with national pride to sell everything from mirror socks to shitty ringtones. In fact, it probably helps if they’re not.
And don’t think for a second that this is the first time an ultimately irrelevant pastime has turned us into a nation of zombies. Although to a far lesser extent, we’ve been through exactly the same process with Rugby World Cup fever, Cricket World Cup fever, Olympic bid fever, and who can forget Rainbow Nation fever, the most far-reaching delusion in the country’s political history? Sure, it’s all great fun while it lasts, so we might as well make the most of it, but that’s no reason to convince ourselves that this current 'fever' is anything other than the same shit in a different box, or – even worse – that any of it actually matters. The only goal in this game is to make as much money as possible off our drunken visitors before they leave on a wake of their own garbage and vomit.
Too negative? I’m sensing an impending public ostracism from the infected, which makes me feel a bit like one of the characters trapped in the cottage in 'Night of The Living Dead' (the original, of course – I look much better in black-and-white).
So now you know where I’m coming from. But anyone still angry at me for my anti-football sentiments, be assured that this too, like all the other feverish waves that came before it, shall pass. Have a cookie. I promise, by the time you're done eating it, you'll feel right as rain."
– Please see http://www.channel24.co.za/Columnists/Articles/Football-fever-get-well-soon-20100609#commentPost for the full article…
Long story short: I don't do the mass hysteria thing, I'll be pleased if Bafana Bafana beat anyone, I'll even watch some of the games on TV, but that's it… If there's rugby on at the same time as a soccer match (or even if there's Formula 1 on at the same time as a soccer match) you can be sure that I won't be watching the soccer. I am old enough to decide for myself, I won't be TOLD what to like by anyone… Besides, if I wanted to watch people diving I'd be watching one of the Cousteau people in a documentary on the Discovery Channel.