This is the kind of article that reminds those of us in football’s far flung shores how different things are “over there”:
Millions of England fans are celebrating reaching the Euro 2012 quarter finals, with many wanting to talk about it. But at what point do football conversations become boring, or even rude to a non-fan?
Usually conversations about football are reserved for football fans. The less enthused tend to nod and smile, or subtly zone out, when football comes into bus stop banter or office water cooler chat.
But now England have reached the quarter finals of Euro 2012, football fever is sweeping the nation.
There are thousands of people suddenly engaging in debates about goals, free-kicks and possession.
Whereas here, or at least in Canada, even in a city as “diverse” (read soccer-mad) as Toronto, hardcore soccer fans can usually count on one hand the number of people they can carry a conversation with that goes beyond “So which team does Ronaldo play for?” Most of the time, avoiding soccer loudmouths is a matter of doing nothing whatsoever.
That said, interest in soccer peaks during international tournaments in North America, and the dividing lines are hauled out every two years during the Euros/World Cup. Usually they involve non-soccer people getting angry at those flag-wavers honking horns all day (and evening). These horn-honkers also make year-round football fans wince because of the the unfortunate assumption that the international “casuals” are know-nothing nationalist blowhards more familiar with their car horn than Postiga’s club form. They don’t love soccer in “the right way.”
My admittedly anecdotal experience indicates these divisions are not always so tidy. Many of the flag-wavers know as much about the relevant details (who plays for which club, the offside rule, etc) as any one else; they just don’t feel the need to self-identify as “hardcore fans” the rest of the year. Soccer is a part of their lives, but they don’t live for soccer. And some non-soccer people are drawn to the party with a genuine curiosity about football that can make lifelong fans out of them, if not hardcore ones.
In other words, the varying levels of football fandom don’t fall under these easy categories. But the tenor of the BBC article underlines the illusion that there are football people (rude assholes) and there are non-football people (can’t we talk about Beethoven sonatas instead?). If a person truly not interested in football is engaged on the subject by some jackass, they need merely walk away, or declare their non-interest. I’m also willing to bet there are people out there who don’t watch club football but who are able to submit an intelligent opinion on how England plays. There may even be non-football people quite interested in someone’s take on how the Euros reflect Europe’s changing political mood, or some nonsense. The lines that divide us aren’t always crystal clear.
As Brian Phillips pointed out in his recent article for the Blizzard, soccer is sometimes too easily fixated on the notion of “real fans,” this imagined elect who love the sport more than life itself and who apparently bore 56% of the English population. No doubt there are dedicated super fans, but many people love football intensely and yet, low and behold, don’t need to blather on about, nor need to go to bars to wave flags. Just as there are people who know a lot about the sport but only watch it every two years during major international tournaments.
So, what really matters here is whether the person talking about football is an inconsiderate blowhard, not that they haven’t asked if others are interested. In other words, normal human etiquette applies, as it does whether the topic is politics, apples, or the Beatles greatest album.