Soccer syndrome

Once again the quadrennial malady has struck and everything revolves around what’s going on in Brazil. Not a day goes by these days without animated talk of football – who won, who lost, how the match was played, why a team won or lost, the referee’s decisions and highlights of matches.

On the first day of the FIFA World Cup, we stopped by a café for a quick cuppa after a meeting. In addition to the regular menu, the waitress handed over a ‘special menu’ which had Brazilian Bru, Neymar Coffee, Footie Cakes and Rio de Shakes! We had neither the time nor the inclination to try these ‘specials’ trumped up by the enterprising owners to cash in on the football fiesta, but we quietly applauded their ingenuity.

It is not uncommon to see football related products in stores and supermarkets every time the sporting extravaganza begins. T-shirts, jerseys, caps, shoes, mugs, mobile phone covers, wrist bands, scarves and what have you are common and displayed prominently.

But when I spotted frying pans hanging in a supermarket painted brightly with the flags of different teams, I decided to join two men meticulously examining them. My wife doesn’t like football; at least she may like this colourful pan, declared one.

Man, knowing how football obsessed you are, she may smack you with it if you remain couched in front of the TV, responded the other man. Don’t fall from the frying pan into the fire, he added and pulled him away.  I’ve heard of the rolling pin in a woman’s arsenal, but a frying pan?

I didn’t buy any of those pans but overhearing the conversation, even if in jest, between the two men, drove home the point that amidst all the fun and excitement of football, differences and tensions persist between husbands and wives, parents and children, as also between friends and colleagues.

One female colleague in office makes no bones in saying that she and her husband are as different as chalk and cheese when it comes to supporting teams. Another bemoans her son is bunking college ever so often after keeping awake all night watching football.

What irks her even more are the sudden, energetic screams and claps when a goal is scored or missed, jolting her out of sleep.

So, alongside work the chatter about football continues unabated, often leading to heated arguments and short-lived cold wars. The ones who are disinterested in the game are also unwittingly drawn into the frenzy one way or the other.

A senior colleague realised that the world’s biggest football tournament was underway only when our Dutch designer distributed chocolates to all in office after Holland thrashed Spain.

And not to be left out in all this is my friend’s driver. An avid footballer in his younger days and still mad about the game, he begged of my friend to allow him to watch the matches as he couldn’t afford to pay for subscription.

His plea was not only answered but he is also allowed to watch matches that my friend may not be interested in. Indeed, the driver must be getting a real kick out of it but in my friend’s words, ‘He deserved a direct free kick!’

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