With Premier League mania descending once again this weekend, it seems like a good time to look at why football can be such a divisive presence in relationships.
First and foremost, girls do not ‘hate sport’, so drop that stereotype right now. But there is an undeniable difference in how the sexes consume, enjoy and talk about it, and that’s where argument can arise.
Take for instance live matches. These are clearly part of a sacred male bonding ritual. A football stadium is full of men who truly seem to believe that their whole lives’ happiness hinges on the outcome of a 90-minute kick-about (I’m not meant to call it that, am I?).
Although men cannot always be counted on to display their feelings when it actually matters, the appearance of a leather ball seems to elicit a whole rainbow of them.
The difficulty with this disproportionate outlet of emotion is that: a) we would (and do) get laughed at for being ‘emotional’ ourselves; b) it rarely happens at any other point in time and almost never with regards to us; and c) it is just plain, well, terrifying.
We all have our passions. But the behaviour that accompanies football passion borders on the irrational: crying, sleepless nights, anger, shame, betrayal, radical sartorial deviations and, sometimes, violence.
Is this a family feud? Is it love or war or an apocalypse? No, it’s a muddy field. And you’re shouting at it. With a woolly scarf around your neck. Just saying.
That said, our incredulity aside, it’s a mistake to think of football and girls as like two sides of the family you have to keep apart. They just need a little mediation, and that’s where men so often go wrong.
Here’s some pointers that might help Saturday afternoon be a little less painful this season.
1 | Go for quality, not quantity
A girl can be quite sympathetic to the magnitude of certain matches; international ones or Premier League deciders, for instance. But having to feign enthusiasm for – and lose a boyfriend to – clubs in Division 3, who she’s never even heard you mention before and whose matches are only shown on Channel 5 at weird times, is pushing your luck just a tad. Since she will be told off for not looking interested throughout the game, be careful not to use up her goodwill by sticking those games that are truly essential viewing.
2 | Let her ask questions
Talking during matches seems to be a no-no (for her, at least). Due reverence aside, if she asks questions about the game itself or why it’s an important match, she could end up with a greater understanding of the whole thing if you just answered, rather than sighed. This raises the chances of her enjoying it more (imagine that!), which would solve all your problems.
3 | Schedule carefully
It is a little frustrating (not to mention suspicious) when dates or days out are cut short, rearranged or mysteriously hurried along so that – just like magic – we arrive at home to coincide with the sound of a starting whistle. Perhaps be upfront about when your games are (whilst baring No.1 in mind).
4 | Don’t drag it out
She’s imagining 90 minutes of action, either side of which life can carry on as normal. Pre-match ‘build up’ and post-match ‘analysis’ is therefore a massive downer. You read about the game all week and know it inside out anyway, so is all this extra education really necessary? Consider trimming the experience down a bit, otherwise, she’ll feel like she’s losing a large chunk of her life to this mistress of yours called football.