FOOTBALL AND LIFE
By Ajit Chaudhuri
Football’s not a matter of life and death. It’s much more important than that: Bill Shankly
For football lovers in the IRMA student community, life is easy! The parents are far away, the workload is light (and anyway everyone is up through the night), and spouses, where they exist, have yet to acquire bargaining power – there are few barriers to watching and playing as much football as you like. Things are, however, going to change once you step out of this cocoon and into the wild world. Work and bosses come into the picture, and spouses get secure enough to demand attention. The responsibilities will only increase as time goes on, both on the work and personal fronts, with the pressures of promotion, marriage, children, paying rent and school fees, etc., taking their toll. Ensuring your football entitlements requires delicate negotiation with stakeholders who do not share your view that this is a necessity and not a luxury or a dispensable time pass that you should ‘grow out of’.
Dealing with work and bosses is relatively easy (on this front at least)! For the most part, football is a weekend activity that can be ring-fenced from one’s profession. And as for the World Cup and the Euros, you can plan your leave well in advance for summers of even number years. If you can’t, don’t worry, most offices have a critical mass of people looking bleary eyed at this time – you merely have to blend in. And if you actually have some work to do? Well, the minimum that an IRMA education is supposed to provide is knowhow (and experience) in the art of bullshitting through days when you have been up the night before. Anyway, at least you know that, in 15 years, you will be the boss and then, if you choose to visit clients in Madrid when the Bernabeu is hosting an el Classico, to shift a board meeting because Ruben Kazan is playing Terek Grozny the night before, or to take Monday off because of aches and pains from playing on Sunday, well, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Handling the spouse requires a little more subtlety! Things start OK because she (you will have to excuse the assumption in this paper that the typical football lover is male, made because of the tediousness of gender neutral writing, s/he, his/her, etc.) is strategically encouraging in the early period of the relationship and, if she doesn’t come to watch you play, at least has nimbu-paani ready for you when you return and is good for a massage if you get hurt. Things also get OK later, when she becomes resigned to her fate, thinks of you as a ‘sunk cost’, and rationalizes that things could have been worse. It is the years in between, the juggling football with ‘lover boy’, ‘sensitive husband’ and ‘caring father’ roles, that are a minefield. So, here is some pooled wisdom from experienced veterans on negotiating this period.
First, play up those HR articles that point to the need for harmony and balance between one’s professional, family and personal lives, and thereby to the fact that family and personal lives are distinct. Put across that football is part of your personal life and that it is OK to be passionate about something.
Second, point to the golfers and bridge players in your friends group – their addiction levels are invariably more, and their time spent watching and playing the game also far more (there is a reason for the term ‘golf widow’). Crack jokes that emphasize this (such as – a golf foursome were playing a round when one of them peered over the course compound wall and told the others, ‘Hey, come and have a look, there are a bunch of nut-cases out there ice-skating on the pond in this blizzard’). You will seem tame in comparison.
Third, take the kids along to your games – she will be thrilled at the prospect of time to herself. Be warned, though, this usually lasts until the kids repeat words that, while suitable on the field when you have just been aggressively tackled, don’t sound so good on the dining table when her parents are visiting.
Fourth, get a mistress! Wife will think you are with mistress, mistress will think you are with wife, and you can play football in peace.
Fifth, play up the health aspect. Never waste the opportunities provided by early health problems of colleagues and acquaintances to make the point that this could have been you but for the time spent playing football.
And sixth, and only if you have the cojones, tell her that ‘a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!’ and just go about doing it.
At some point, she will figure out that your love for football is not a liking, nor a passing interest, nor a one-night stand, but LOVE. And, luckily, most women understand love – the pleasure, the pain, and the void caused by separation!
And spouses, if you happen to hitch up with a football lover, here is advice (variations of this are available on the Internet) on passing those strenuous four weeks every four years that coincide with a World Cup – assuming that you have not been packed off to visit your parents or something.
1. Cede the TV for the month! Do not even glance covetously at the remote!
2. Do not cross the TV during a game! If it is necessary (for example, you are getting him a cold beer or some kebabs), ensure that you are not in the line of sight (do it crawling on the floor or whatever).
3. He will be blind, deaf and mute during the games (unless he requires the items listed in #2). Do not expect him to answer doorbells and phones or to deal with crying babies that have hurt themselves, etc.
4. If you watch with him, it’s OK to talk only at half time (but only during the advertisements) or after the game. If he’s upset about a result, do not say ‘get over it, it’s only a game’ or ‘don’t worry, they’ll win next time’.
5. Replays and highlights are important! It doesn’t matter how many times he has seen a replay, he still wants to see it again. Do not say ‘but you’ve already seen this, let’s watch something else?’ See #1 above!
6. Ensure that family and friends don’t fall ill, die, marry, have babies, or do anything that requires his attention or presence during the month.
7. Don’t waste your time thinking ‘thank God the World Cup is only once in four years’! After this comes the Primera Liga, the EPL, the Bundesliga, the Serie A, the Champions Trophy, the Euros, the Europa League, the Club World Cup, the Tippeligaen, the PrvaLiga, etc., etc., etc.!