One friend of mine even postponed a trip abroad to enable him to watch the World Cup through all its glorious moments from start to end, whilst his wife flew ahead to Germany.
Now I have nothing against sport. My own world stops for Wimbledon, The Australian Tennis Open, The Summer Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, as well as all things equestrian. However, my lack of interest in men running around any sort of field or oval chasing a ball is endemic. That it can stop whole nations simply beggars my belief!
Perhaps there is something fundamentally primal about this ritualised form of tribal warfare, manifested into national and football code allegiences?
All I know is that the major sponsors continue to be multinational corporations with vested interests in marketing their often unhealthy products to a mass international audience and that my own disinterest in the actual games excludes me from participating in conversations and social affairs that have football at their heart. Dare I say, I find the slick advertising and the antics of the fanatics more entertaining than the games themselves?
So what may you say?
I happen to pride myself at being able to converse with anyone, within reason. I enjoy chatting. I am interested in the world around me. However, when it comes to soccer, or indeed the other various codes of football my eyes just glaze over. In Australia at least, this puts me at a major social disadvantage!
I have been dragged along to one football match in my life. It was so rivetting, that by half-time I was engrossed in a novel and hanging out to return to the comfort of my own home. To make it worse, the food at the match was inedible and expensive and the weather was freezing. I had willingly subjected myself to this to accompany a friend from overseas who wanted to experience football in Australia and to "give football a go". I had to endure a crowded bus, then train ride home full of drunken football fans whose team had lost!
A friend of mine who was a footy umpire used to be given a police escort to and from matches, lest disgruntled fans harm him. Yes, Australian passions run high when it comes to football. Except for mine it seems!
Friday night drinks in many workplaces are the place where you can relax and interact with your colleagues on an informal basis?
Wrong. In Australia, those informal work drinks usually are more like gatherings of the work-based footy fanatics to congregate and dissect last week's game results, and later, run through the weekend's play card. Perhaps the Derby and Melbourne Cup may provide one weekend per year's relief. But generally attending the Friday night drinks at work is as challenging as watching an actual football match, unless you are a fan of football, maybe more so, as trying to feign interest is even more challenging and you want to appear neither ignorant nor rude!
Now if drinks at work offered me a chance to chat politics, religion or even art and literature, bonding with ones colleagues in an informal context may be easier.
I turned up week after week in every workplace I have been a part of and discovered the same culture extended to all of them. It was football or nothing when it came to conversation. Try as I might, I was never going to be part of that drinks culture, any more than of the football culture. Why even in my university days fellow students had acknowledged I belonged to The Arty Farty League. It was apparently aligned to that other famous football institution in Victoria, The Anti Football League, founded by Keith Dunstan of the Sun Newspaper in the 1960s. The AFL, or Australian Football League sees itself the "real code" and to this day we are beleagued with codes that claim they are the "real form of football". Here, competes soccer, Australian Rules, Rugby, and Rugby League codes for the football hearts, minds, dollars and loyalty of my countrymen and indeed lots of women.
However, here's where it gets embarassing. Another colleague and myself decided to enter the workplace footy tipping in attempt to feel as one with our workmates. Her fascination with football matched my own. Just to ensure we didn't forget to fill in our ticket, given football was such a high priority in our lives, we completed the entire card of rounds at the beginning of the season.
Our football tipping system was simple. To reflect our politics we selected all the teams on the left. We also randomly alternated that with prefered places to live.
We completed our season-long entry in no more than ten minutes and handed it in. We had to be the least applauded, most despised winners of the footy tipping of all time, even though we shouted drinks for our whole workplace for one entire Friday, as was the tradition for footy tipping winners. Everyone knew that when it came to any genuine knowledge or interest in football we were total fakes. Worst still, we demonstrated that there is no real point in studying the form or match history of teams for hours on end. It was too late, we had regularly demonstrated our disinterest, perhaps even a degree of contempt for football and all it encompasses over many years. Believe me, winners are not aways grinners!
These days if anyone invites me for workplace drinks on a Friday afternoon, I politely decline. Nor have I ever joined a subsequent footy tipping competition, though I can attest the merit of our practical and pragmatic system, especially if you are indeed a passionate football fan.
There truly is no place one can feel as alone as in a crowd, particularly, if it's a crowd that loves football;
"Good on em' I say, enjoy the footy, whatever the code, but please leave me out of it!