Three out of the five humans living in our house are football fans. By ‘fans’, I mean the type that choose to wake up at 4 in the morning to watch a match. Any match. Not a critical, qualifying decider or potential knock-out of former champions kind of match.
Of these three fans, two have decided they will call it ‘soccer’, as they were born in Australia where ‘football’ is – how shall I put it – a whole different ball game.
I’m not saying that I am a non-fan. I’m sometimes there on the side lines, cheering on the 7 year old and his team-mates, enjoying the determination and passion radiating from such young hearts. I ask him to explain the offside rule for fun. Not because I don’t know it (I do, honestly, as I have had it mansplained to me many times), but because I love watching his eyes sparkle as he moves salt & pepper defenders, a tomato sauce bottle striker and a wine glass goalkeeper to create a visual representation of this vital piece of football knowledge.
When the World Cup comes around, I morph into a football fan. Every 4 years I pick a team to support (usually Brazil). I suggest we put up a newspaper pull-out wallchart to dutifully enter match results and give life to the Path to the Final. I rally the kids to wear the colours of ‘their team’ (usually Brazil) for the last few matches. I also read a little bit about the players, the experts’ predictions and some post-match analysis. Like a leap year that also comes around every 4 years, The World Cup is something you just accept and embrace as a part of life, a part of the calendar.
This time however, I don’t need to do any research. I have a 7 year old Human Encyclopaedia of Football Soccer Knowledge. He rattles off players’ names like they are his best buds (‘They’re all out, Mum! James, Sanchez, Messi, Aguero, Higuain…….’ etc). He moves from hooligan to pundit in the space of a few seconds as he yells at the television when he thinks a card should be awarded and then argues his case logically and coherently to anyone who will listen. He also has strong opinions on the tactical decisions of managers: ‘He shouldn’t have taken Costa off, he would have EASILY scored a penalty.’ It’s like having a high-pitched Gary Lineker sitting on your sofa.
There is something different about this World Cup. Perhaps it is the fact that the Italian team was a non-starter. You could always count on them to wear the tightest jerseys and provide something for those who did not watch football for the football. Perhaps it is the shock of recognising managers on the side lines and realising they were players 20 years ago – like Didier Deschamps of France and Spain’s Fernando Hierro. And then watching an amazing Schmeichel in goal and noting it is Kasper, son of Peter, world’s best goalkeeper 1992.
But mostly, I think it feels different because of my next generation Super Fan. I will look to him to keep me in the know this month. The generation gap is obvious. My favourite Brazil players were Romario, Rai, Cafu and (the original) Ronaldo. My Super Fan has been known to ask for a Neymar Jr. haircut. His goal celebration is borrowed from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He is surprised if I know anything at all about football. However, when we watch a match, the generation gap is bridged through yelling at the television together and then we’re on the same playing field.
©2018 Seetha Dodd