Since the start of the AFCON tournament, and with no great help of Bafana, soccer (or football) has again come under the negative spotlight of most rugby loving people. I felt the need to just shed some light (not a spotlight) on how anyone in their right mind can sit through 90 minutes – if not 120 with extra time – and still witness a 0-0 draw. Or how anyone can feel to watch the whoosies hit the floor without anyone touching them. This is my story, so excuse the personal stuff…
Born in Holland I met football probably in the crib, while all the Dutchies were ranting and raving around me. From when I can remember somebody in our group of young laaities always had a football. We played before school at some friends’ courtyard, during breaks on the playground and after school in the street. Our dads took us to local games and we knew the rules before we really knew what maths was. This is the major reason Holland, Brazil, England, Spain etc. produce such great players and teams; they live it. I was living, breathing, eating football - then I got exported to sunny South Africa at the tender age of 8.
The first week we landed I was chosen to be in the under whatever rugby team, because everybody plays rugby; only rugby. New PT shorts and sporting a borrowed real rugby jersey, I was to join in the line out as lock. I didn't know why, how or what, but I caught the ball and knew I had to get to the other side. Never got there; a tackle came from the side which still makes me taste the dust when I think of it today. No, rugby was not going to be my game.
The hype started around me entering high school. I was asked to play in place of someone hurt and got selected on the non-existence of any other able body, as a flanker. Took to it like a fish to water and I was hooked after I scored my first try; the screaming girls along the field probably had nothing to do with it. It was only then I started to learn the rules and really started watching the first team play.
At night, during June 1986 I’d tune my portable radio to BBC on AM band, to listen to live commentary of the football world cup in Mexico. Later, on weekends, I’d watch Northerns play Transvaal for the curry cup live at Loftus and when the FA cup came on in May, I had my Liverpool scarf ready with a whole bunch of friends to party into the night.
When I met my wife she knew as much about football as I did about netball, but she saw me come out from under my shell and jump up and down when Liverpool played Everton, totally out of character for me as far as she was concerned. It took her 5 years to develop a passion for the game, from only watching some weekends, asking questions and going through the same 0-0 result frustrations as we have recently been plagued with. I do however, leave the T.V. for a friends gathering or even a braai with only my wife; doesn't matter what game is on. If sport gets all-consuming it is bound to depress you.
Today, I have passion for both games and know them equally well. The point I’m trying to make is that we can only find passion in sport, and really come to know it, if we initially have the interest in it. The passion for sport is not just an overnight process. That is why rugby folk battle to support bafana, just as soccer folk do with the boks. There has to be initial interest to get anywhere near knowing the rules or feeling elated when a try or a goal is scored. Put my TV on SS1 and make me watch the sunshine tour…I have absolutely no interest in golf, I’d rather go to the dentist, but if a friend visits and he is an ardent fan, I will respect it because it is his passion. It is also not because I played these sports that I love them both equally, I am just as much into motor sport – without ever being on a race track. There is good and bad in all sport but criticising something we don’t know just does not fly.