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Offbeat 20 June 2014

From what I gather, football has more adherents that just about anything, including Facebook and the Catholic Church.

I never was much of a fan of sport in the past. The thing that I was best at, bowling in cricket, was denied to me when the headmaster of the school, at the time, decided that the big paraffin tin needed some mercy, and the other kids needed a chance to bat. Swimming was great, I didn’t compete, just meditated as I did the 50 or 60 laps.
Rugby, I remember, was painful. I was big in Standard 6. The boys in Standard 8 and 9 were even bigger. Getting jumped on was not my idea of fun. The scrum, in the heat of midday, was repulsive place to put my head.
I played a bit of football in early primary but didn’t get much joy out of it.
I was in a Ritalin haze as I remember it. In those days, it was the fashionable way to set about parenting, but all it produced from me on the soccer field was an own goal and a complete inability to focus on the ball.
That’s, more or less, the history of my sporting involvement and, up until now, the boundaries of my interest. All that changed a while ago,  however, with a resumption of trips to the pub.
The pub that I go to is convenient because it is close to home. That’s my excuse. I never paid much attention to the décor, which is two large TV screens and a bunch of soccer regalia and some flags. Being what might pass as bit of a low key elder goth, I inevitably wear black. It colour coordinates well with my greying sideburs, and bristles, when I forget to shave.
An acquaintance saw this somewhat differently, not understanding the fascination of being an immortal, though in my case, benevolent vampire. He took a look at me, and associated my dress code with the Manchester United away track suit at the time. He then proceeded to associate me with that team.
 Given their losing streak it wasn’t particularly kind, but I felt a bit obliged to go with the spirit of the thing and at least act like a supporter, or at least watch the matches and cringe when they lost.
My new-found fandom has been useful in many regards. Nobody particularly wants to talk about the metaphysical conundrums of living forever on a diet of blood, and there are only three types of weather in Namibia – wet, cold and hot – so football serves an admirable purpose of filling in the gaps in the conversation.
There were some side effects though. I too felt the rage at United’s choice of Moyes.
I felt sympathy for his replacement, Giggs. And I was extremely gleeful to see a future for the team in the form of the Netherlands wins which involved United’s striker Van Persie, and their team manager Van Gaal, who will become United’s manager next season.
Don’t be alarmed though. Stranger things have happened, for instance the three or four days I spent stamp collecting. Football is more interesting.
From what I gather, football has more adherents that just about anything, including Facebook and the Catholic Church.
 It inspires such devotion that some elements of fundamentalist Islam attempt to destroy its players and fans, and other elements of fundamentalist Islam distance themselves from that sort of thing because it strikes at the very core of humanity.
This leads me to the idea of shared interests and communication. Humanity needs both of them. Weather is not really enough.
There is only so much speculating and complaining you can do about a cloudy day before the conversation gets boring and hostilities resume. Football seems to be one of the things that fits the bill quite well.
Small talk is important. People have different interests. Small talk bridges the gap.
If not for small talk, and the things that are easy to natter about, no matter how smart or dumb you are, conversation would stop and, as the differences became noticeable in the silence and the glares across the room, small wars would begin to break out.
There’s a lot of talk about football being a force for peace. As long as Van Persie is able to produce header’s like the one he did in Netherland’s first match, and all the talk that generated, there is a hope for peace.

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