By NASA MARIA ENTABAN
YOUNG Malaysian football fans are preparing for three weeks of sleepless nights and disrupted daily routines as the 2012 EUFA European Football Championship (Euro 2012) kicks off today.
The championship, which is in its 14th year and is being held in Poland and the Ukraine, will be watched by millions worldwide, and Malaysians will be catching the matches too.
Many youths are used to fighting off fatigue and organising their schedules around football matches, as the Barclays Premier League (BPL) and other European leagues are hugely popular on this side of the world. In the next few weeks, they will eat, drink and sleep football in the spirit of rooting for their favourite teams.
For non-fans, it’s a little tough to comprehend the great lengths the football-obsessed will go to to watch their team play, so we spoke to several fans about their football rituals, game-watching routines and the reasons behind their love for the game.
Getting with the programme
The Euro championship lasts three weeks, and it will be three intense and stressful weeks for hardcore football fans.
Some fans are already planning their schedules around the games, which is something many of them already do during the 10-month BPL season.In order to stay awake for the matches, fans are planning their sleep around the games and drinking coffee to stay alert.
Manchester United fan James Patrick regularly plans his work and sleep schedules around football matches, and has even taken leave from work whenever there’s a late match that will keep him awake until the wee hours of the morning.
He will move into the living room throughout the coming Euro championship, so that he will be able to sleep during boring matches and wake up for the more interesting ones without having to move.
“I travel quite a bit for my job so I’ll try to schedule my travels to make it possible to catch matches on my travelling days. Also there’s always coffee at work and sleeping early, at maybe 9pm,” says the 28-year-old engineer. “If I have no access to a television I stream matches until the last possible minute before my flight takes off. I let my wife know the match times beforehand so there will be no clashes with our plans..”
“I will be checking my smartphone applications every few minutes. The apps are set to notify me at kick-off, goals, red cards and final whistles on selected teams,” says Patrick.
Writer Priscilla Gaithiri Rajan will be supporting the teams from England and Italy, and will adopt some of her usual practices.
“I’ll be watching most of the matches at home alone since nobody else is going to stay up or wake up to watch them with me,” she says. “I have flexible work hours, so it won’t be so bad, but I will have to pump up the coffee drinking on some days if meetings or deadlines loom, and have catnaps before kickoff,” she adds.
Student Keeshaanan Sundaresan is all prepared for the ungodly hours when the Euro matches will be shown, as he does not want to miss a single moment of the championship.
“For true fans, nothing will stop them from watching the games,” says the 19-year-old. “Coffee and Red Bull will be our best friends on match days and expect an increase in afternoon nap statistics as well. Whether it’s 8pm or 3am, you can definitely expect football fans to be relishing the prospect of watching a good football game.”
Operations technician Healsca Michael, 27 will be watching at home, or frequenting a nearby coffee store in Bintulu, Sarawak, where he works.
“I’ll sleep early then get up with my cup of coffee ready for the match then head to work the next day. If its on a weekend, I’ll stay up whole night and make up for sleep the next day,” he says.
Student fan Michael Jason Campton, 22, is such a huge fan of Manchester United that he once cycled 30 minutes to catch an important match because all the buses were running late.
“If you were a true fan you would support your team through thick and thin, go to see as many games as you could and stay on top of news surrounding your team,” says Campton. “Banter between fans of different teams is regular and inevitable in football but I’m a believer that if you spent half as much time and effort on supporting your own team as you do on bashing and hating on other teams, you’d be a much better fan.”
Good luck rituals
Making time for the games requires true dedication to the sport, and for many fans, this includes being faithful to their ‘good luck’ rituals and charms.
“When I watch my state team Sarawak play, I have a scarf I would tie around my head just before the start whistle,” he says. “For MU matches I have a jersey which I only wear for matches and only wash if MU loses.”
“I always only drink Coke during matches and open the can right at the start whistle. I started this when my dad brought me to my first footie match and bought me a coke. After that, every match he would give me money for coke and I’ve not stopped since,” he adds.
Vishnu Nair, a 29-year-old business owner, has ‘rules’ he has to follow.
“Rule number one, I have a particular friend who sends me a message before every Liverpool game and if I read it we’re definitely going to lose, so I don’t read it,” he explains. “He’ll send me a text any way even though he knows I won’t read it.
“Second rule, I try to keep a winning combination going, for instance I watch the game with my girlfriend and the team I support wins, I’ll force her to watch the game with me every other time until Liverpool loses and the charm is broken.”
Priscilla never changes her clothes mid-way through a match.
“Say if I come home from work and a match has begun, I wouldn’t have a shower and change until the match is over. If Manchester United is playing, I can sometimes be a jinx. How this is determined is a long illogical equation, so you can pretty much put it down to crazy-football-people,” she says.
Keeshaanan steers clear of jerseys, as he believes that wearing them during games will end in a disappointing match result.
“It is especially so when I watch Perak play live at the stadium. I don’t wear the official jersey because I have this hunch that I get disappointed every time I wear a particular jersey while watching football.
“If we can count this as ritual, I also normally play an online prediction game before any football match. Just to add spice to the joy of watching the beautiful game,” he says.
Student Aruwin Santherasegaren has a Liverpool scarf that he wears when his team plays.
“I started wearing that scarf after they visited Malaysia during the pre-season, and it has proven to be good luck against the big teams,” says the football fan.
“When it comes to the last few minutes of a game and I feel like the rivals are going to score, I scream at the television and pray that the whistle blows to end the match,” he says
For the love of the game
Many may scoff at and make fun of these ‘crazy football fans’, but to them, nothing can compare to the happiness they feel when they watch their team play.
Despite the late nights, disrupted work schedules, skipped dinners and lack of sleep, many football fans deny that their obsession or interest in football is detrimental, and instead believe that football enriches their lives.
“I think like anything in life too much of something can be bad but football has to be the exception to that rule! I mean like how can someone hate football? It’s fabulous!” says Priscilla. “Football is something I pretty much always go back to. It is a happy place for me, though at times it can be a cruel game and nerve-wrecking,” she adds.
Keeshaanan sees no negative effects in being a football fanatic, but believes that one needs to know where to draw the line between football and their personal life.
“Football motivates me and therefore increases productivity in whatever I do. It’s all about how you manage your life and time. If we can do that effectively, nothing but positive effects from football beckons for us,” says Keesh.
“Football is more than just a game. It’s about the history, it’s about the passion and it’s about leaving a legacy. People who pay attention to these aspects are the ‘true football fanatics’ – in my opinion,” he adds.
Patrick has been watching football since he was nine years old, and has been loyal to his favourite team all these years – the joy he feels from watching his team win a game is indescribable.
“Everything about football, from admiring the skills of the players to watching the drama unfold during matches and feeling the energy that comes through during the games make the lack of sleep worthwhile,” he says. “When my team plays well I feel great, and I feel a sense of pride, as if I was one of them right there in the stadium.”