I am a football virgin. Well, was. I was, as dirty and inappropriate as this may sound, “de-virginized” last Saturday. And was it pleasurable for me? Let us just say that for a first timer, my experience to watch a live football match was not as bad as I had expected it to be.
My introduction to football started in 2010 when I saw the FIFA World Cup in South Africa on cable. I chanced upon one of the matches and decided to see what the hype was all about. You see, before that, I had never seen any football matches… at all. If football is the universal sport that binds the countries of this world as one, then I definitely live in a different planet. I do not like football. There is nothing about it that interests me. Now before all you football-loving people of the world send me hate mails, here is my main reason why I dislike it: I am just not into it. I am not into sports in general, period. It is as simple as that. I have played numerous sports in school before, but I only played them because they were required. I never developed love for sports. Watching swimming and gymnastics amuse me; and I have the desire to learn boxing, archery, and target shooting, but I cannot really say that sports spark my passion. The only reason why I even decided to watch FIFA 2010 in the first place was because I caught a glimpse of Cristiano Ronaldo! Even then, his charisma and skills were not able to convert me into a football fan. I watched a match, and then changed channels after 10-15 minutes. Worse, at times, I would just see who was competing and then leave the station, only going back to it to find out who won.
And so when my friend, who is a sports fan, invited me to watch the United Football League (UFL) games at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila several months back, I declined. Me, watching football live? Not happening. Unlike TV, I could not switch channels, thereby leaving me no option but to bear it. [Although this friend of mine and I do have plans (more like dreams!) of going to Brazil for the World Cup 2014, my motivation to go there is mainly for the opportunity to experience Brazil and not necessarily to enjoy the games. And oh, yes, to see Ronaldo in the flesh!] She also invited me to join the booster squad that her sister was trying to put up for the Loyola Meralco Sparks FC (LMSFC). Why the hell would I cheer for these people whom I did not even know?! So again, I declined.
The UFL matches were held weekly and she continued to invite me even after I told her that I did not want to witness the games live. I could almost see myself if ever I had decided to go – I would just sit there in the bleachers, bored stiff. While everyone would be screaming out their guts in support of their favorite teams, I would probably be somewhere in the venue, reading a book, away from the celebrating audience. But my friend was persuasive and even struck a deal with me – she would accompany me to a gig, but I should join her and her sister one time to see a live football game. She used the magic word – GIG. How could I say no now?
After turning down my friend’s invitation a number of times, I finally agreed. Actually, a tiny part of me wanted to go, too. I had never watched any live (pro and even semi-pro) matches before and I thought (and hoped) that it would also be a nice experience. We set the date on May 5– the day when LMSFC and Stallion Giligan’s (SG) would compete. Although my interest in football is nil, I just focused on the fact that I would do something new, and that was good enough for me. As May 5 approached, interestingly, I looked forward to it.
We arrived at the University of Makati, the venue for that day’s games, early; we even caught the second half of the first match: Philippine Army vs. Philippine Air Force. I looked at my watch – it was only a little past three in the afternoon; the LMSFC – SG match would not start until four. I did the math:
45 minutes (second half) + 15 minutes (break) + 45 minutes (first half) + 15 minutes (break) + 45 minutes (second half ) = 165 minutes. And I thought I only had to endure 90!
Despite the snail-like movement of time, the second half finally ended. My friends and I changed seats to have a better view. I sat with the booster squad, aptly called the Sparks Squad, and suddenly felt so out-of-place – I was the blue-green in a puddle of orange. My friend actually asked me to wear something orange too, but you guessed it right, I said no. Orange meant I was an LMSFC supporter, which I was not. I was not supporting any team, as I did not know them at all. I was merely there as a spectator, not a fan. I was neither attached nor was invested emotionally in any of them, so I did not feel the need to side with a team by wearing its official color.
It was the same with my reactions. I could not fully feel happy whenever one of them scored a goal. I applauded their skills and was amazed with their achievement but not enough to make me jump out of my seat and shrill. I even hoped to see SG score a goal just to see how their supporters would react. I was Switzerland circa WW II. The only reason why I was “on the side of LMSFC” in the first place was merely that my friends were supporting them.
I wish I could retell what happened with the games but that would be impossible, as all that I could remember was that all of them were just running around and kicking balls! I could only share my observations, the highlights, and thoughts overall:
- 1. The match had a high dose of testosterone. There were several instances when the athletes got a little too physical. There was pushing, and hostility flared between the two parties. My friend said that it was their first time to see such occurrences as well.
- Before the games started, I had hoped that either of the two teams could score at least 1 point. The experience would have been terribly frustrating for me if after sitting there for more or less 90 minutes, the scoreboard never even changed. Fortunately, LMSFC granted my wish as they generated 3 points.
- Just like concerts, watching football matches live is indeed better than watching it only on television. The energy of both the athletes and audience feed off each other.
- I suggest that before doing something totally new like what I did, acquaint yourself with the subject a little bit more. Although I do know something a little bit about the game, the technicalities of it were lost on me. There were times when the yellow card was raised and I did not understand why. Yes, my friend was there to guide me but I did not also want to bug her with all my questions all the time and prevent her from enjoying the game itself.
- I had the privilege to see Phil and James Younghusband up close when I gained a special insider access, along with other fortunate fans who were dying to have pictures taken with them. Since I was not (and still am not) a fan, I did not ask for their autographs, etc.; I was content watching the whole scene take place. It actually reminded me of myself during my earlier gigging days when I also used to line up (or even ambush!) my favorite musicians just to have a photo taken with them. Hay, it is so embarrassing to be a fan sometimes! Haha!
Despite checking and zoning out on several occasions; having question marks all over my face; and being unable to relate to the conversations of my friends and the other fans for most of the time; it was, on a general note, a good experience. It did not completely move me, but it was an adventure, nonetheless.
My friend invited me to come with her and her sister again this coming Saturday for another LMSFC fight, this time with Kaya FC– another club that is entirely unfamiliar to me! I told her I would think about it. I still have until Saturday morning to think about it…
P.S. Who would have thought that I would have a sports category here in my blog?! Definitely, I did not! Ha! Strange. Moving on..
For images of the said match, please visit this interaksyon gallery.
For UFL schedules and venues, please visit ufl philippines.