For the longest time, sports was never my thing; I would much rather sit down with a good book.
Even now when I regularly swim, jog or brisk walk, I would still never call myself a sports enthusiast.
I do those merely to stay in as pink a health as I can. For, unlike other half-centurian peers who are already starting to experience the empty nest syndrome, yours truly still has kids under 13! So I’ve gotta be responsible for my own state of health and well-being, so I can continue to be available for my family for as long as possible.
Free from sports at last!
However, trust me when I say that I take very little pleasure in swimming my laps (I never do more than 20). Or jog/brisk walk at the beach nearby (I rarely do so for more than 20 minutes, what with my near-geriatric knees and all).
Other than swimming, all other sporting activities for me will easily induce non-stop perspiration (yes, I’m built like a fountain that way!), especially in this humid, equatorial island I call home. And nothing (other than mosquito bites) gets me more worked up than a sweaty workout!
But at the very least, being a full-fledged adult now for the better part of my life does mean one important thing. Unlike in the days of wearing school uniforms and attending Physical Education (PE) classes run by ferocious PE instructors, I don’t have to do a sport anymore now if I don’t like it, or choose not to.
Finally, my nightmare days with all things sporty were behind me.
Or so I thought.
Dreading the world’s most popular sport!
Now on God’s green Earth, there’s simply no disputing what is THE most popular sport of all times: football (or soccer, if you’re from the US). Especially for someone like me, born and raised in Asia, where the game is played and worshipped everywhere.
I still remember when I was in primary school, how every moment out of the classroom and in the field, meant only one thing for young boys (other than playing marbles or cricket fighting), Football!!!
Oh how I hated the game! I mean, a bunch of kids chasing after a useless round object up and down a field? Are you kidding me? Haven’t they heard of books and libraries?
Already disinclined to perspire, I was also hopelessly self-conscious of my two left feet and stick-insect of a body. Plus the constant dread that one careless kick from one of the older (read rougher) boys, would send that round rubber planet in the direction of my tender head. And me thereafter in the direction of the nearest hospital!
Thanks, but no thanks!
So I always try to get out of playing.
I would either complain about a tummy ache and asked to be excused. Or I’ll volunteer to play defence, then spend all my effort running away from the dreaded ball if it so much as comes within a mile of me!
My cat-and-mouse with football!
Pretty soon, I was the butt of jokes by other boys in the field as they laugh at my visible nerves, or curse me for allowing an opponent pass our team’s defence to score a decisive goal.
What made it worse was that, for the longest time, I could have sworn the football was alive and out to get me! As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t sidestep the ball’s trajectory as it hurtles across the often-muddy field (another turn-off) and in my direction. I really thought that the ball had some kind of homing device attached to it, and I was its forever target!
Recalling now, I guess it must have been quite a spectacle. Boys chasing a ball that’s “busy chasing” me!
This “torture” continued into my teen years as I navigated the secondary school sporting scene with trepidation and the seemingly endless ways football continued to haunt my waking, and even sleeping, hours!
So imagine my joy when I joined the ranks of adults everywhere, no longer having to wear PE attires and swelter under the hot sun among other sweaty bodies, pointlessly chasing after that awful round contraption!
Or so I thought.
My nightmare’s back!
Fast forward to the years 2019 to 2021. In these three years, guess which sport I’ve found myself playing more than I ever did in all my childhood years combined?
Talk about coming back full circle.
No one told me that when I had sons, I had to (groan) play football with them. Didn’t I do my best this past decade (my youngest boy C is ten this year) to never bring it up? To never turn to the sports page in the local dailies or the sports channel on TV? To keep their young impressionable minds untainted by the temptation to ‘Bend it like Beckham‘?
When did I let my defences down and let the ball dribble right back into my life?!
My “eureka moment”
My first instinct was to blame society and the schools.
I mean, sure I get it.
Which school in this part of the world would leave out the world’s most popular sport in their PE curriculum? Unlike, say golf or American football, with their more elaborate equipments and complicated scoring systems (to the uninitiated and, if I may add, uninterested), football is a game so simple to grasp even a baby could figure it out in two seconds.
Football is undeniably one of the quickest ways to work up a sweat, get the adrenaline flowing and just clock in a decent day’s worth of exercise.
It’s also a cheap and fast game to get the wins in; to feel that heady sense of achievement when one’s foot successfully contacts the ball, then let fly a torpedo kick sports greats like Messi or Ronaldo would be proud of.
At the end of the day, it’s really a no-brainer if you think about it; I mean, the sheer concept of a little boy and a ball? It’s pure genius! A match made in heaven.
I mean just look at my son! No seriously, scroll down and look.
For a boy who daily resists the outdoors with feline ferocity, the only thing that’s ever made him agree to step out with me, and actually enjoy time under the sun, is that round, smudgy, orange rubber of a ball.
I mean, what else in blazers would propel a sedentary and scrawny stick-insect body of a boy to stay healthy, keep fit and enjoy a day out with his dad except …?
Wait a minute…