For some strange reason, it kind of surprises people when they find out that I am actually following the FIFA World Cup this year. I guess only really old and close friends and relatives would know that I am (was) actually one football fanatic. Football and I dated back to long long ago and in one of the most unusual way in 1995.
I was a very ‘cheena’ person since I was a kid and loved the chinese pop culture a lot until a trip to Down Under with my school when I was in Sec 3. On one of the mornings there, I think, in Kalbarri, I saw this MTV by this group of rather cute British guys who were known as Take That. Turned out that one of my friends, Missy C was also a fan and I started to get to know more about this group. And that song that captivated me, for the first time, was ‘BAck For Good’ – the song that I still love till this very day.
So, what’s the link with Take That and this beautiful game? Oh well, being idol-crazed, I started buying this super expensive British magazine called, Smash Hits which basically featured all pop news of Britain. And obviously, the football stars of the English Premier League were constant features (e.g. Jamie Redknapp?) on the magazine with their crazy night outs and gossips with some B-grade stars.
Up to that point in time, I still did not know who is who in the football language until one saturday night, my cousin, I, came to my house (can’t remember for what reason) and ‘snatch’ TV from me because he wanted to watch soccer! As always, my mum asked me to give way to him and so, there I was seated on the floor, sulking at the TV. Then, some magic happened and I was spellbound by it! And guess what? That was my first EPL game and it was a game by Manchester United (can’t remember it was against who). Thanks to the game , I became a football addict and yes, my favourite team was Manchester United (think it was also because my cousin was supporting them too). It also helped that from the game, I realised that many of the names I have seen them before in Smash Hits such as Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane. But the one man who stood out during that game was number 23 – David Beckham! If I were not wrong, that was his first first team appearance in EPL with Man Utd.
So, subsequently, I became a regular addict to football games or to be exact, Man Utd games. Then came World Cups and Euro and no money for guessing who I was supporting. None other than England, of course. It is quite difficult to forget that 50m goal from Beckham and his numerous free kicks. I was so besotted with him that I even bought tapes on Man Utd and on him! The milestone came when Man Utd came to Singapore for a tour. Being the club member and having cousins who loved Man Utd as much as I did, we bought the tickets and queued really early. Still remember we were just 4th row from the track and YES, Beckham was just in front of me. I was also lucky enough to be picked for an autograph session. Unfortunately, no beckham was found (he was already number 7 then) but I did see Ryan Giggs and Ferguson. But it was really dumb as we could only pick one player to take autograph. I din really bother and so, joined the shortest queue – Phil Neville’s. And I still remember that one of my biggest dreams in life back then was to make a trip down to Old Trafford in Manchester and this is really something that I wish I had done earlier, even up till now.
However, for some reason, the craze soon died down when I started dating my hubby. He is never really a soccer guy (yep kinda strange), although he claims that he likes Liverpool (yucks!). We usually dated on weekends and so, watching football soon became history and my dad gladly cancelled it. Also, Beckham later on moved on to Real Madrid and so, there’s not much motivation for me to watch Man Utd anymore (very pragmatic, ya?).
But as I started to move in new chapters of my life – Wedding in 2008 (Euro 2008) and Motherhood in 2009-2010 (World Cup 2010), I can see that my chances of following the beautiful game getting slimmer and slimmer. I completely missed Euro 08 and this World Cup, I hardly saw more than 3 matches (full ones!). Feeling pretty sad, honestly, especially when so far, the matches seem to be sprouting surprises after surprises.
I guess, the spirit of football still lives on. Teamwork, individuality and showmanship…As much as my favourite teams like Spain, England, Germany are faltering, I still completely appreciate this very game that seems to be able to unite the world together that no other (person or nation) can…
So, after such a long and winding entry, who do i think will be the winner? Hard to say but if I must, I hope it will still be Spain. But a strong feeling tells me that the trophy might just end up in South America again.