To say I’ve never been a football fan, wouldn’t be sufficient. In fact, it would require a whole new word as ‘understatement’ just wouldn’t suffice. However, like every other South African, since June 11th I have fallen for football big time, and boy have I had it bad. Flush with the excitement of the World Cup, a part of me began to think, ‘You know what Mvelase, maybe you’ve been wrong about football all these years. This just may be the start of a beautiful sporting relationship,” and like the start of any relationship, it was beautiful.
Football flirted with me in that opening match, with the brilliance of Siphiwe Tshabalala’s opening goal, the brilliance of Itumeleng Khune and finally the heartbreaking Mexican equaliser all presaged by the pride-inducing beauty of the opening ceremony. As an act of seduction, football couldn’t have done better than that… I was a bit liquored up, it showed me the best of what it could be; how could I not fall for it?
I was so enamoured by my new discovery that I allowed friends to attempt to convince why I should support their teams in the European leagues. As my family is split down the middle on this one, I allowed both parents equal opportunity to convince me of why I should support Pirates or Chiefs. I’ll admit it, I even thought perhaps I’d give Wimbledon a miss this year and stick with the football. Those days were the best, I basked in love’s first blush, but, oh how quickly things have soured…
As is oft done in relationships, I chose to ignore those initial signs. Those markers that maybe all is not as wonderful as you want to believe it to be. I chose to ignore the numerous inexplicable decisions which were made by the refs, decisions that even a novice me could see were wrong. I thought, perhaps this was what football was meant to be like, I may not have liked it, but I could live with it. But it was too late, that small seed of doubt had been planted in my mind, and no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, I couldn’t.
Then England v. Germany & Mexico v. Argentina happened… Video replay. Need I say more?
Those matches only reinforced what I already knew. Wimbledon had started a week before and the speed with which I ran back to tennis could rival the speed at which a football player previously writhing in life threatening pain gets up when seeing the referee isn’t buying his ‘injury.’ As I tweeted after Ghana was cheated out of a semi-final spot by Luis Suarez, “The more I watch football, the more I realise this sport’s just not for me… I can’t handle this kinda stress.” Angrily-tweeting and ranting to anyone close enough to hear my threats of blue murder against Suarez, I suddenly realised what my issue with football is.
It’s not an issue of being on the losing side. Loss I can handle, I’m a Roger Federer and a Ferrari fan. In both sports, I have had to take a humbling master-class in how to handle loss after having always been on the winning side. The issue I have with football, is that quite often, too often, one feels a justified sense of rage and anger at a loss, because, to quote myself again, ‘we was robbed.’ Football’s very own Dark Overlord, Imperator Sepp Blatter, finds these egregious errors add a ‘charming human element to the game.’ I know the Imperator is somewhat preoccupied counting the billions the Empire of FIFA’s gotten from their South African adventure and refining his confidence tricks to get even more out of Brazil in 2014, but I and millions others, find these moments less ‘charming’ & more ‘infuriating.’ With an attitude like that from the administrators of football, I suddenly began to get something of a modicum of understanding for football hooligans, for what is a ‘football hooligan,’ if nothing more than an enraged fan, and was I not that?
And that’s where I realised I had to stop.
When one is suddenly seeing the world from the paradigm of boorish thugs, one must stop and evaluate how it is they ended up in that position. I had tried my utmost to ignore the less attractive parts of this beautiful game, and the beautiful game, I will now admit, it is, but there is only so much one can take. This was not to be a lifelong love. This was a month long mistake, Football was that boyfriend you look back on and think, “But what was I thinking?”
However, I am someone who likes to finish what they have started, and I will watch the World Cup to its conclusion. Till the 11th of July I will watch the games and cheer for some or other team to take the cup (let it be Argentina). But even before the euphoria has died down, before Imperator Blatter flies off while we’re still too happy to notice we’ve been fleeced, I will kick football and everything it brought into my life out on the kerb. As beautiful as this game is, my nerves cannot handle the stress of this game.
Even with the most disastrous of flings, one wants a memento. So, though ‘I will kick football and everything it brought into my life out on the kerb’ the vuvuzela, I’ll keep…