Common ground


July 9, 2010 by jessperriam

Early on in the epic adventure / quarterlife crisis I realised that I was going to have to develop an interest in something I normally consider rather boring.

It all started when I was drinking with some newfound friends. They started talking about the World Cup – then in the group stages – and I went to another table because I didn’t find it interesting.

And they apologised for boring me so much I felt I had to shift.

That’s when I realised that the World Cup was going to be a talking point anywhere I happened to be.

And I wasn’t wrong. In Egypt I was the fifth wheel in the tour group. If I wanted to hang out the choices were: two Australian sisters in their early fifties, one of whom had never left the country before and the other who had just finished two years of teaching in Eritrea. Cue many long, gushing stories of Eritrean times. The other were a German couple around my age. The guy was obsessed with football (no, we’re not getting into the football versus soccer debate right now).

The choice was simple. If it was 5pm or 9.30pm, I would be at the local coffee shop with the German couple, our tour leader, surrounded by Egyptian men skiving off work with shisha in one hand, tea in the other.

I have seen World Cup matches in so many settings, it’s ridiculous.

I’ve watched Spain versus Chile in a riverside cafe on the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor. The screen was actually set up in the river.

I raced around Dakhla Oasis trying to find a coffee shop that was showing the Germany versus England match. Much to the German’s dismay we missed the first seven minutes of the game due to the satellite signal being messed up, only to get the signal back just after Germany scored their first goal. The television was outside, there was sawdust on the ground and even the Tourist Police rocked up. Talk about going local. This was no tourist trap.

We found a cafe on the corniche in the seaside city of Alexandria to watch the zzzzzzworthy Netherlands defeat the impulsive Brazil.

And then there was the next mandatory World Cup match: Germany versus Argentina at yet another seaside cafe. By this time we were scheduling dinner around the matches. The German was wearing his shirt especially for the occasion. He wore it proudly for the rest of the night.

The best thing about watching football in Egypt? There’s no rivalry. When a team scores, everyone cheers. It’s as if they’re supporting the good game of football rather than a team.

When Egypt came to an end the German handed our football-mad tour leader an envelope saying, “Don’t open this until Germany makes it to the final.” Oops?

Then onto Istanbul where nargile, Turkish tea and Netherlands versus Uruguay was on the cards. The methodically, predictable, efficient Dutch were worthy of cries of, “They’re everywhere!” and, “Hey, why can’t someone else get kicked in the face to make this interesting again?”

And a few nights ago saw a new hostel friend and I wander into what must have been the one cafe in Istanbul where all the patrons were Spanish. Aye caramba! It was actually great to see people get passionate about the game. Commiserations to my German friends…

So where will I be when the Netherlands face off against Spain? I will be in Tirana, Albania, trying to find somewhere showing the game.

Who do I think will win? I reckon the octopus has it wrong. The Dutch may play the most boring football known to mankind, but it works.

What have I learnt about football? The German goalie is a ninja. Orange doesn’t look good on anyone. Vuvuzelas aren’t so annoying. Football is always the winner.

What haven’t I learnt? How that offside rule works…

Will I give a shit about football once the World Cup is done and dusted? Probably not. I would go back to following Australian Rules Football but not this season. Not while my beloved West Coast Eagles are cellar dwellers.

The things you do to be sociable…


One thought on “Common ground

  1. Mandy says:

    Embrace the soccer Jess! I agree – Netherlands to win.

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