Football Is Life

This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of CONNECT.

 

Thabiso Molapisi (Kumamoto)

 

It’s the sound of the vuvuzelas, the hooting of cars, the loud music, the excitement that hits the streets on game day that set the tone of the weekend alongside the colourful expressions of football lovers and supporters in their gear. Whether packed in taxis and cars making your way to the stadium, making your way to the nearest pub or tavern, or even staying in the comfort of your own home to enjoy the game with your friends and family, there is something about the celebration of soccer that commonwealth countries have that others don’t.

Football fans cheering with their vuvuzelas. Image from; News24.com

 

As a South African, I am probably biased in concluding that there will never be another FIFA World Cup like the one South Africa hosted in 2010. Albeit that’s not just my opinion; speaking to people who travelled from far to come watch the game in my country, I have heard similar feelings echoed. Soccer is part of who we are in South Africa, even if it’s not your sport of choice. When fixtures are set, the schedules are out, and new jerseys have been bought, one has no choice but to bear with the mood of the season. You either brace yourself for a boring match you care nothing about, or you look forward to the next two hours of your life with eager anticipation and excitement. From watching analysts and retired soccer players predict who will win or lose, to watching the game all the way to the post-game shows, for the highlights and assessment of the game, from those who know it best. South Africa breathed soccer in me, which has made watching the World Cup in Japan an underwhelming experience to say the least.

 

Football-Lite

Watching the World Cup in Japan has been something I can never get used to. The mood is different, the celebrations different, and there isn’t much of a football culture, as opposed to baseball. I tried watching it at home, but it felt lonely. I went to a couple of izakayas, and it was as though someone had passed. The TV was either very blurry and made it hard to want to watch, or a game was just background noise while people drank the day`s exhaustion away. No one cared nor showed any emotion of excitement or disappointment.

Watching football in South Africa is much more involved. Image from; PioneerNews.com

 

Everything about this experience has made me a little homesick. The tradition is different to what I am used to; the energy is different. I miss the noise that vibrates from your feet all the way to your ears when a team wins, the beer cans and bottles, the roar of the crowd at the stadium and in pubs and taverns that are filled to the brim. I miss the laughter and songs sung by the gleeful supporters witnessing a win and the tears and cussing of the ones witnessing a loss. I miss the game-day food that is greasy, spicy, and has the ability to slouch you into a cholesterol high. I miss the jokes, the sarcastic jargon, and play on words used in the football community by the commentators, relaying the sport in the manner only they can.

 

The initial mood of this World Cup has been rather sombre; however, I know if I were in a commonwealth country, the experience of watching it would have been quite different. There is nothing wrong with the manner in which Japanese people choose to celebrate and express themselves regarding this lovely sport or any sport of that matter; it’s just that the indifference in the culture and tradition of how we South Africans and other commonwealth countries carry football was more than just something new, it was a major culture shock to a football lover. It was a disappointment to see that the football movement isn’t the same everywhere. Not every country lives and breathes this sport. Football lives in some—not all—of us.

Though played across the world, differences in enthusiasm for football can be a source of culture shock.

Thabiso “Debbie Bloodmoon“ Molapisi, is from South Africa and was a journalist, radio broadcaster, and DJ back home before coming to Japan. Obsessions include reading, writing, travelling, sports, finding wine, coffee, and making people laugh when she can.

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