Soccer mania

2010-12-23 00:00

RIGHT, so it’s 2010 and I’ve been to my first soccer match. This is not as obvious as it sounds — this match was in September, months after the last tourists had vacuum-packed their biltong for the flight home. Indeed, while I bought the flags and the window socks for the hype, I just couldn’t bring myself to get the shirt — yellow is a problem for most pale people and I simply wasn’t prepared to compromise. I have standards. Actually, I’m afraid I used to get a smug smile on my face seeing all those yellow fellows traipsing around on Fridays. Not disloyal at all, just practical. Sorry. Anyway, the window socks have become terribly useful as beanies for my small children, so that was money well-spent (and they’re not the strangest things in their wardrobes either).

I digress.

My husband had the grace to warn me a little while back that we would be attending a soccer match or two here in Maritzburg.

“Gasp … Is there a box?”

“I don’t know, darling, but that’s hardly the point, is it?” he said.

“Oh, it is so the point, dear. You don’t honestly expect me to sit out in the cold?” I pleaded.

“It’s September.”

“Either way, please find out if there’s a box. I’m not sure I can do the whole smell-the-sweat-of-the-players thing.”

There was some mumbled comment about me turning into a princess that I didn’t entirely get — I had moved on to completely more important matters. What was I going to wear? Last time I checked, Trinny and Susannah hadn’t had an episode on What Not to Wear to a game of footie. Bother.

A month later, I was organising our home manager to baby-sit while we were out.

“We’re going to the soccer. You know, the Maritzburg team and the Kaizer Chiefs team.”

I swear she actually guffawed. After composing myself, I asked afore-mentioned husband what time the game began.

“Hmm, 8.30,” he said.

“Pm or am?” I spluttered.

No comment from him. Eye rolling. I’m usually safely pj’d up by that time and all ready for the first flight out to the land of nod. He was beginning to show a little concern for my well-being, bless his socks, but he stoically stuck to his story and I bravely confirmed the sitter’s arrangements.

The big day arrived and, like most semi-working mums, I focused on surviving the day before I got a chance to panic about my wardrobe. Husband did not help the situation by arriving home sporting a blue supporter’s shirt. Now there’s a sensible colour and not one in sight for me. Fortunately, I have a default outfit — fits most occasions without offending too many people except those averse to black. I can’t help that I have a pair of killer boots and a leather jacket with serious houding. Honestly, it does not make me a goth. I digress.

By the time we managed to leave the house, I was thinking seriously about a sudden migraine. Then, husband’s pièce de résistance — with a flourish he produced tickets that had “Presidential Suite” written across the top.

“Ooh, how lovely,” I exclaimed. Suddenly, things were looking up.

We sashayed into the suite, and what a most splendid suite it was too. Comfortable seating, ceiling-to-floor (well, almost) glass and the most beautiful view of a stadium I’d swear I’d never seen before. I had seen it before but not in all of its supporter’s colourful glory. Fabulous. A glass of the house red would be the icing on the cake.

Or not.

“We are being hosted by devout Muslims,” Husband tells me through clenched teeth.

The penny dropped, oh so slowly, and as it did I did a quick pull-yourself-together-and-be-grateful-for-the-hospitality talk that one gives oneself from time to time. Never fear. Water would be just splendid and my hips would be ever so pleased in the morning — as would my head.

The game started and we politely took our seats. Not quite rugby. Ever so civilised. Genteel applause when an attempt was made at the goals. General murmurs of disapproval when the ref was clearly in the wrong (apparently, anyway, I couldn’t tell). Fascinating stuff this soccer lark. So much action, so much to see, and from time to time something interesting even happened on the field.

My personal favourites were the touch judges. Seriously, have you studied them closely? Such precision with their arms — one poetic move from the perpendicular to the parallel. Such conviction as their flags were thrust out defiantly. And so much respect from the players. Which just goes to prove my point that you can do just about anything if you do it confidently enough. And that rather clever side-stepping trot thing they do. Oh, the hours of practice to perfect that. I was in awe.

The prize for the best off-the-field entertainment has to go to the reserve players. I swear, they didn’t stop hopping and skipping along the edge of the field the entire game. They must be seriously keen to get a turn to run about on the right side of the white lines. No way I’d hoppity skippity for 90 minutes in case I was called. Sheesh, send me a text and I’ll be there in five but don’t ask me to waste such valuable energy. These guys clearly don’t run after pre-schoolers 24/7.

“You’d think we were at Lord’s watching cricket,” I commented to my husband. There we were in our ivory tower (well, glass really, ivory is so last season and now illegal, apparently), sitting demurely in our theatre seats, while the packed stadium was humming in front of us. Vuvuzelas and horns and daft hats abounded.

“Why’s there so much yellow?” I asked innocently. “I thought we were blue.”

Well, shoot me down. I’m less familiar with Kaizer Chiefs than I am with my ironing board. How was I supposed to know they were, like, huge?

One match later and it was a draw. What is the freaking point? Couldn’t we play to the death, or something? These guys would not have coped during the Crusades. Can you imagine?

“Right boys, that was fun, but would you mind terribly if we stopped now? I know there’s no actual winner but, well, the spectators need to go to work tomorrow and we can’t be liable for an unproductive day down the mines.” Good grief. I couldn’t decide if I was proud or daft the next day — I sacrificed a lot of sleep for my city.

So it was over and we swept out of the VIP parking, patting ourselves on the back for being such good sports and supporting our local team, yada, yada, yada.

Days later, it turns out that granny phoned while we were out and she and the sitter were chortling with laughter at the thought of us at the soccer. I still haven’t told them we were in a suite. I wouldn’t want to spoil their mirth.


GILLIAN Tredgold is married to Hilton and they have two children, Scott (4) and Cassidy (2). Tredgold has been teaching in PMB for the past 17 years, mostly pre-primary children but her interest in special needs education has led to a shift in her focus. She is now self-employed as an academic support teacher and is about to embark on the adventure of reading for her honours degree in education. Tredgold is passionate about her family, her friends, her career, cats, the beach and Facebook — pretty much in that order. She is secretly a wannabe writer and singer but is still waiting to be discovered.


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