Sunday 29 June 2008

Match? What match?

A few years ago, I was walking on the street when a TV camera crew approached me to conduct a quick man-on-the-street interview.

After all, being an adult male and walking on the street as mentioned above, I was by every available measure, a "man on the street".

The producer with the camera crew asked me if I watched football.

Recalling that I used to catch the occasional English league games on free TV before the advent of cable when paying to see televised matches was as inconceiveable as Singapore not being in the Malaysia Cup, I answered, "Yes, I watch football."

So they pointed the camera at me and rolled tape. The producer asked me who I thought would win the match that night.

I was stumped. "Is there a match tonight?" I asked on camera. The producer was momentarily stunned.

Although I wasn't telepathic, I could tell what was going through his mind in that split second.

It was this: "Why did you say you watch football when you don't even know about the big match that everyone is talking about? Are you so desperate to be on TV that you would lie about something as banal as watching football?

"Or are you so insecure about your manhood that you're afraid that admitting you don't watch a macho sport like football would reveal you to be the pussy that you are? What kind of sad pathetic idiot are you?"

Even the cameraman and soundman looked at me as if I was the biggest loser they had ever seen in their life.

They turned off their eqiupment as they tried not very hard to keep from sniggering. The producer recovered from his mild shock, thanked me politely for my time and hurriedly looked for another man on the street, hopefully one who was more football-literate and not a sissyboy.

Up to this day, I still have no idea what mystery match he was talking about. Oh, the woes of a casual football fan. OK, maybe "fan" is too strong a word. Actually, "casual" is too strong a word.

For a long time, I thought the Reds and the Red Devils referred to the same team because the "Reds" was obviously and logically the short form of the "Red Devils". I just wasn't sure the team was Liverpool or Manchester United. It simply didn't occur to to me that two different teams competing in the same league could have the same word in their nickname. Confusing, much?

And I've never heard of Euro until four years ago. And suddenly it's being hyped like it's the biggest football event apart from the World Cup. If the European Football Championship is so big, how come no one seems to care as much about Copa America which also features past World Cup-winning countries?

And why do Singaporeans care more about the Spain-Italy Euro quarter final than our own national team beating Lebabon in a World Cup qualifier the same night?

Yes, I'm clearly ignorant about the game, an even more cripplig affliction now that I'm working at The New Paper where football is practically the second language. And especially this week as Euro08 builds to a climax. If I felt like a pussy before ...

So please don't ask who I think will win the match tonight. My manhood is barely hanging on as it is.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 June 2008