As top flight football leagues begin matches across the world in the shadows of the COVID-19 tsunami, all variations of players are happy — except one. That football lover that would rather share 90 minutes with a neighbour he doesn’t know his first name, than face his TV alone. Let’s meet the happy ones first.
Top-flight or low flight, football matches set 22 matured humans running after a round leather for all of 90 minutes split in two equal halves.
While these sweaty, panting, spitting, mischievous, sneaky, winking, biting, speedy, mercurial and Field Marshal-like varieties of God’s creation are the centre of attraction, there are other “key” players, such as rabid betting masters, that stare at the TV screens and scream at players for missing a sitter or a defender that lets through a strike or striker.
As football leagues resume, these ones are not interested in who wins matches or cups. As far as they are concerned, any player, referee or, in recent times, VAR that renders his betting ticket useless is an enemy of the state.
Even if the offender is the otherworldly Messi or lethal Ororo (Ronaldo), the player that renders these imaginary millions-of-Naira-in-a-ticket worthless, deserves to be treated like the ticket when the match is over — squeezed and flung into oblivion. These ticket players are cousins to match-fixers.
We just love this game
Then, there’s the genuine lover of the game— just for the game. For this stakeholder, nothing in this life beats Klopp’s Dortmund morphing beautifully from a defensive wall to an attacking spread in one fluid counter moment. Oh! That season!
These stakeholders also find the conviviality and familial ease with which the current Liverpool squad does its thing a source of joy.
Whether it’s Arsenal getting their groove on, Messi passing through defenders as if they don’t exist (remember how about five Super Eagles players and the keeper escorted the wizard until he netted?) or Ronaldo defying gravity; the lover of the game just get another reason to smile in spite of burdens.
When you feel an especial affinity with humanity when a defender hacks down an “enemy”, then gives the fallen attacker a hand to pull him up, you belong to this class. If you get emotional when they even exchange smiles (is social distancing possible here?), you are in this boat. It shows there’s still hope for humanity.
Another set of players are the fans. Not “Ayam Arsenal fans” gang. No. But the rabid we-die-here I-can’t-eat kind of fan.
Now, let’s examine an example. KC is a fan of Chelsea FC. When that team plays his world outside that game freezes. The status and/or importance of the game is immaterial.
When you hear him scream “Olopaooooooo!” disaster looms. He takes his complaints to the nearest person, who might know nothing about the Premier League: “Look at what that idiot did? Only a tap-in was needed. He just hit the ball like a madman.”
Disaster one: His complaints are usually complemented by physical demonstrations, so keep a safe distance. Two, no one has seen a madman hit a ball. Three, most disastrous, the nearest person to burden with this complain could be the boss! And KC had put the boss’ assignment on hold!
One such fan once bellowed “Lord have mercy!” Another promptly responded: “No! He should have Iniesta!” A defender had almost given them heart attack with a “lago”.
Then the master capitalists! They are the most happy as the football leagues reopen. Their representatives are bookkeepers. These bookkeepers might be burnished with titles such as Minister of Finance, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ministers of Economy and Finance, Ministère de l’Économie et des Finances or Minister of the Treasury. COVID-19 gave them sleepless nights.
The major football leagues have opened up its doors to cure their insomnia.
The unhappy ones
Emmanuel Tevez: Why I prefer going to viewing centres to watch football is because I find it more interesting and more fun watching it with a group of people and having to share different opinions, thoughts and all the screams when the player scores a goal.
Its feels like family. Watching it alone at home, you won’t have anybody to talk to and you might even find the game boring. I don’t know how some people love watching matches alone. But most people I know love viewing centres, because they feel it’s fun and find the game very interesting.
Udoh Bassey: Basically, one of the major reasons why I prefer going to viewing centres to watch football is simply because football is interesting when the argument is there. When you take away the argument from football, it becomes a normal thing. We want to get engaged, hear people talk about it — the passion. You see the love and zeal people use in supporting their team. You hear statistics and get engaged with history. All these bring excitement into football.
It’s not because I can’t watch in the comfort of my sitting room. But for all the times I watch football at home, I don’t always get what I really want. But when you go out there to watch with friends and people, who might be strangers, you just talk about a lot. There’s the love, passion and the fun to hear people comment on various issues regarding football.
Patrick Ube: Why I love going to viewing centres is because that’s where you meet a lot of people. Imagine staying alone to watch football. You won’t be motivated about it. When you are around new people at viewing centres they bring out ideas.
Also, there would be different supporters of various teams, so you get to hear arguments. If you are at home, there’s nobody to argue with. Watching football alone is not fun.
David Ibrahim: I have this friend of mine that does not like watching football at home. He either goes to the neighbour’s house or the viewing centres. I am not really a football fan. It’s not my favourite game, but one thing I know about watching football matches is when you are watching alone, it becomes so boring.
But when there are people around you, you get to interact with people, and gradually, they take that boredom away from you. Watching football in a viewing centre helps to kill time and provides an escape from sorrows. You find yourself arguing and shouting with the opposition club fans. Most time you tend to forget your problems.
Blessing Anzaku: The reason myself and a few people I know go to viewing centres is because of fun and argument between supporters.
Anonymous: Why I love going there is because I always get over my worries and calm down when I get to interact and argue about matches, especially when my girlfriend annoys me or whenever I am angry about something. I always find my way to the viewing centres to watch match. That is the best way to ease my anger.
Anonymous: I go to viewing centres to watch football matches because the stations that show the matches are on bouquets that are very expensive to subscribe to. In the lower bouquet I subscribe to, they only show one match per day.
To watch the remaining matches, especially the high profile ones, I have to go to viewing centres. This might continue until my income improves to the point where I can conveniently cough out such huge amount to pay for higher subscription bouquets.
Edikan Asuamah: I love watching football in viewing centres mostly because of the atmosphere. As numerous fans of different clubs gather either to celebrate the victory or the loss, the atmosphere becomes so tense.
Also, arguments from different angles arise in the course of the game time with loud roars and chants from fans, especially with victory lurking.
Most times, fans of rivals clubs indulge in deep and passionate jubilations and sometimes banter, as they witness the slump to defeat of other clubs.
Seno Evans: I don’t really prefer viewing centres, but it is fun anytime I go there to watch the games, as it exposes me to the emotional support from fans. Even with the noise, the arguments, you realise that it’s exactly these elements that make the game interesting to watch in the midst of people with different characters.
Therefore, in one word: Therapy. It could be emotional, psychological, communal and even financial. Imagine the millions that will be denied these therapies because of COVID-19.
Imagine the sorrows of the seats at The Kop! Imagine the ultras being jobless! Aunty Corona, oya come and be going.
When these footballers make the ball roll, fly or make turns that defy the laws of physics, the fans want to share the moment in real time — screaming at each other, saliva flying, while real and incorrect statistics are spouted confidently.
Don’t you just miss: “Dem don dey go! One by one!” Or “Yeeee! Blind striker! We should move the goal post to look for your football, abi?” Or “Coach, substitute that O2. His battery is weak.”