Football Focus

I am a man. I just want to get that out of the way first. I don’t want there to be any confusion surrounding that subject. I have never had an identity crisis of that kind. Except once, when I was about ten and I answered the phone only to have the person on the other end say ‘Hello, Mrs Gilroy…’, I’ll be honest; that got to me a bit. But since then; I’ve been fine.

However, there is one thing I lack as a man that has and always will cripple me in social situations – I don’t like football. I don’t get what the fuss is about. Granted, there will be other men out there that won’t like it either, but I’ll be damned if I can find them. We’re like an invisible Leper Colony- it can’t be helped but no one will admit to it in public. And the first rule of the Men Against Football Club? ‘You do not talk about not liking football.’

I’ve tried liking football, with limited success. My dad used to take me and my brother on a Saturday and try as I might; I just didn’t enjoy it. It takes a lot of nerve to sit your father down and come out to him – admitting that you only go along to the matches for the half-time cheeseburgers. I imagine that’s how Billy Elliot felt. Or Kim Jong Un, where he admitted to his dad that he’d much rather open a vegetarian delicatessen.  I even used to play football – imagine that. I never had a clue what I was supposed to be doing. I wandered round the pitch, lost and confused. I must have looked like some sort of fully-clothed streaker who wasn’t entirely sure what his role entailed.

I have tried and failed. Now I am left to deal with my decision and the consequences it brings socially, like Sophie, off of ‘Sophie’s Choice’. But in a Wetherspoon’s. Take, for example, a recent night out. I was out with friends of friends for a leaving do – I didn’t know many people. Early on I latched on to two other men (not literally) and began to chat with them. All was going well until somebody mentioned the Newcastle vs. Man United match. Luckily, I was aware of this match’s outcome through no fault of my own; which meant I could at least fake it. “3-0, eh?” I offered. “Crazy, wasn’t it? I didn’t see that coming.”

For a moment, I genuinely believed I’d fooled them. Just like R Kelly – I believed I could fly. I was using words like ‘trounced’ and ‘booted’, willy nilly. All of a sudden, talk turned to the ‘League’ and I could literally feel my face glaze over with indifference. As the two men talked, I stood next to them, nodding occasionally and cradling my bottle of lager in the hope that it would make me look more masculine. The talk became more in-depth and I suddenly realised I was no longer in a conversation; I was next to one. Game over.

I know I could have just said; “I’m sorry, I’m not interested in football” but, in my experience, I’ve found that no other phrase can end a conversation and sour the atmosphere in quite the same way. Unless of course you were to say something like; “Can I introduce you to my wife, who, coincidentally, is also my sister?” In the minds of football fans, there is no distinction between those two admissions.

So, there I was thinking it couldn’t get any worse. I started making my excuses to leave, when I thought – ‘No; I will not let this problem affect my chance of a healthy social life.’  So, I about turned and re-joined the conversation. The two guys were talking about how they wouldn’t miss a game for anything, so I offered my own take on it; “Yeah, I feel exactly the same with Britain’s Next Top Model. If I miss it, I’m livid.”

It’s safe to say I don’t have to worry about the affliction anymore, as I doubt I’ll be invited out again.

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