I don’t really get soccer. Instead of growing up watching ‘The World Game’ on SBS, I spent my youth listening to the dulcet tones of Richie Benaud’s cricket commentary.
Yet despite being somewhat dumbfounded by the extreme popularity of a 90-minute game in which it is possible for absolutely no points to be scored, I can appreciate that soccer – like cricket – must be full of captivating subtleties that are apparent only to the trained eye. This year’s World Cup got me reminiscing about my relationship with the world’s most popular sport.
Given that I lack the necessary cultural grooming, being invited along to watch Bundesliga or Champions League games is always a bit of a chore. So much so, that at some point, an Australian friend and I decided turn the tables on our soccer-loving friends and host an AFL football night. We got hold of a DVD of the nail-biting 2005 Grand Final between the Sydney Swans and the West Coast Eagles, in which Sydney gets over the line by four points in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter. Our guests were randomly assigned a team and told to come dressed in either white and red or yellow and blue to ensure we had two dedicated cheer squads. My friend and I wrote the rules of AFL on butcher paper, stuck them on the walls and served up meat pies and sausage rolls with lashings of tomato sauce.