“kalau kau buat team bola untuk england, siapa kau nak letak?”
“ian rush.”

-a conversation over dinner in newcastle 14 years ago


what is it with football?

i, for one, never found anything fascinating with a game where 20 people kick a ball around a grass pitch (i know got 22 one, but the goaliekeeper[sic] where got kick the ball around ah?). ever since i was a kid, i was of the sedentary type. i was, and still am (i have no qualms whatsoever to admit this) absolutely useless. kids are cruel, and when you’re shite in games at the schoolyard, you’re dead meat. so, it was back to my cartoon-drawing and kenner star wars action figures for me (didn’t have an atari console until much later).

rtm regularly had footie at 3pm every saturday in the 70’s. it was english at first then german a few years later. one english team stuck to mind then: stoke city. don’t ask me why, but i don’t think they were great even back then.

came 1982 and we had the world cup in spain. i remember that was the year i was ‘interested’ in football. ovaltine had a promo thingie where you collect stickers for the world cup finalists. maradona, zico, rossi – for someone who never really like football, that’s not bad going if i could remember these soccer heroes. despite the world cup, i never had the itch to play the damn game (PE doesn’t count). i did play subbuteo – that was okay although kinda weird (people still play it today. why? go play winning 11 or something lah).

we don’t really watch footie on the telly at home. my dad loved man U (and changed his allegiance to the magpies when i was in medical school – no prizes for guessing why) and hated liverpool. in the rare occasions we did, i finally learned the offside rule (curi ayam). not from my dad, but from my late mom (ex-STF/state hockey player).

i remembered mexico 1986. friends sneaking off to the canteen after lights off (i think the wardens didn’t really mind). i even had a classmate donning bandages around his wrist, on school days, like the fresh-faced gary lineker. and yes, i remembered the quarter finals vividly. only ‘the hand of god’ bit. even an idiot can tell maradona pakai tangan.

the next (and the last) time i actually sat down, watch matches on telly, and actually cheered with my housemates was eight years later – the 1994 world cup ‘stateside (again – yes, it takes a tournament of such magnitude to pique my interest). i remembered the final game between brazil and italy: what a shitty way for a team to win the world cup. and i remembered how devastated roberto baggio looked that day.

the interest in footie pretty much waxed and waned for me. more waned, actually. it really depends on the crowd i hang out with. i am amazed with my friends who could describe, verbatim, matches from days long gone. how a goal was saved and the moves it took to score that winning goal. i also read blogs where people discuss footie as if they were reading a transcript from SKYsports.

i have been on english soil for the longest time and one of the questions i get asked when i go back to KL would be how great it would be to get to watch footie matches. i had to bow my head down in shame and say that i have not watched a single footie match live. not even when keegan was raising the magpies from its ashes in the 90’s. and st. james’ was literally setanak nasi away on foot from where i lived.

do i watch football today? what do you think?