As a reasonably accomplished student in the field of English Literature I have, by force of necessity, honed a talent for reading more into a situation than is, in truth, actually there. And I often find myself applying this skill to real life as well, and I have to say, it is surprising just how often I have a revelation whereby a simple, everyday event can suggest to me something profoundly relevant to the beautiful game. It’s always cropping up.
Today, I engage you with a rather personal subject, and so I approach it with caution, euphemisms at the ready. See, earlier this morning, we had a plumber round to replace the pan of our toilet, which had been known to leak a tad, on occasion. However, on leaving, the plumber suggested to us that we avoid sitting on the said household appliance for “four or five days”. Now I don’t know about you, but I happen to regard a fully functioning toilet as one of life’s base necessities, and something that I can’t really live without.
Naturally, and I hope the plumber in question isn’t, by some massive coincidence, a reader of this blog, we shall not be following his advice. We may refrain from using the appliance for perhaps 24 hours, but even that really, is hugely inconvenient, given that the nearest public facilities lie a few minutes down the road, and it is very chilly outside at this time of year.
However, as I strolled down the road towards said public facilities earlier today, I was thinking of those things that in this world we cannot live without. And this, alongside such necessities as food, toilets and a water supply, is where football popped up. Of course, one can live without football, it isn’t going to prevent us from the chaos existence that life is if we don’t watch it or play it, or even follow it a little, and there are plenty of people who don’t engage with the beautiful game in any way.
But the thing is, I genuinely cannot imagine life without some element of football in it. When I get up in the morning, I open up a browser and Everton FC’s homepage loads up, as it is my homepage too. I then click through a variety of different sporting websites and blogs to check up on the latest goings on in the world. If Everton are playing I’ll be up watching it on TV, or if I’m not so lucky, up watching one of many ‘live text commentaries’ online, furiously clicking the ‘Refresh’ button on my browser and hoping each time that it will brings with it news of an Everton goal.
But even when Everton are not playing, I’m always watching football. I got up at 6.30am this morning to watch the UEFA Cup Final between Werder Bremen and Shakhtar Donetsk (Donetsk won 2-1 AET, Werder were unlucky, I thought). I did the same for all the Champions League games that were televised and when La Liga games are shown here, I’ll often make an effort to watch them too. It’s not that i particularly care about any of the teams involved, I simply love watching the beautiful game.
And I have to make the most of it too. Talking to an opponent while playing Football Manager Live (yes, more football) last night, I mentioned that I was planning on getting up early to watch this morning’s final. He said, with some shock, that he would never get up so early just to watch a match as a neutral and that got me thinking. Back when i lived in England, even though I’d never really have to, I wouldn’t have dragged myself out of bed so early for neutral football either.
The fact is that England is a country that is literally swamped in football culture. Everywhere you go, everywhere you turn, there’s football. Be it on the TV, in the newspapers, in magazines and billboards, or simply on the lips of strangers you pass in the street, your mates at school or blokes in the pub, football is a culture in and of itself in England. And so, even without realising it, you don’t need to make an effort to take it all in. You simply can’t help but do so.
On New Zealand though, it’s a very different situation. New Zealand has just one professional football team and to be fair, no one in the media or in wider New Zealand really gives a shit about the ‘Nix, or at least, they won’t until we win something. Nope, over here, it’s all about the Ruggers. Rugby this and Rugby that, and fair enough, that’s what they’re into, but I can’t get into it myself. I grew up in the world of football and so I have, almost subconsciously, set about creating a world of football of my own.
I spend a large amount of time online, reading about the game, catching up with news and watching highlights, and of course, contributing to the global football media, through this very blog and the various other places I contribute. I spend as much time as possible watching the game when it’s on TV. And I spend a significant amount of time playing the game, be it on Saturday’s in the wind and pouring Wellington rain, or indoor football, in the evenings, in a hot and sweaty sports hall.
But all this is normal for so many people in England. To be so indulged in the sport happens without much effort on your part. You simply have to open your eyes to it and there it is, football all around you. Here though, it is an effort. You have to search people out, attempt to find like-minded people to talk football with and to play with. But, like going to the loo, football shouldn’t be something that you have to work at, that you have to arrange.
I shouldn’t have to nip down the road, rugged up in a hat, scarf and gloves at ten o’clock at night just to answer Nature’s Call. And likewise, I shouldn’t have to rely on talking football with a bunch of people I’ve never met and don’t really even know on the Internet. Because as much as I’m English, and I’m born of the English culture, I am also born of a football culture. I grew up immersed in the game, and in moving to New Zealand, have suddenly been jerked out of it like a fish on dry land.
Where I’m actually going with this I’m not really sure, I’m really just elaborating on an observation and hoping for the best, but I’ll try and narrow it down into a point now too.
So I guess what I’m saying is, to those of you in England, or in the other countries around the world who live in a vibrant football culture, embrace it. Make the most of it, because some of us aren’t so lucky. And remember, even though the end of the season is upon us, and we have no major tournament to look forward to this Summer (see, I call it Summer, even though I’m living in the depths of Winter), take solace in the fact that you will still have football all around you. The newspapers will still be full of football news, gossip and transfer rumours. So don’t despair, because the football itself will soon be back.
For those of you who, like me, are stranded out in a football wilderness, be it New Zealand, Australia or even the USA, I can offer you little consolation. But take heart in the fact that at least we have each other, and at least we have access to the world through the miracle of technology that is the Internet. And after all, football is a world game, and we are therefore just as much a part of it as anyone else. And mostly, take solace in the fact that you don’t have to walk down the street just to go to the loo, because I assure you, it can be a real pain in the arse (pun very much intended).