Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Phoenix, loyalty and "us"

When I was young and at an impressionable age football meant a lot to me. The Hungarian football team with its bandy-legged fat little captain, Puskas, was the best in the world and I jogged my heart out around Palmerston North to be fit and perhaps one day move from the school's third, i.e. bottom eleven to the next grade, and perhaps one day even make the first eleven. I never quite made it, I left school early, played for a university team until one day I couldn't find the ground we were to play at and called it quits. But the drama of football stayed with me all these years, even if only at a low, subconscious level. With the establishment of Phoenix, the local AFL franchise  I had a team to be passionate about. I follow their game every week on television, read every article about its players, It is as if I know each of them personally (I saw Paul Ifill once, very smartly dressed, good looking, coming towards me) I agonize when they pass the ball to the opposing team, are too easily dispossessed, I scream when they miss a clear shot on goal. When they win it makes me feel better for the rest of the week. My image is not that of a man who cares about such ephemeral matters as football, football in a place where only Poms and Europeans care about the game. I wear glasses, play chess, listen to classical music, why does football matter to me. To understand that I think of the deep roots of the game in my genes; I remember clearly listening with my father to the broadcast of the Hungarian - Austrian game with the hardly intelligible, rapid, overexcited commentary by Pluhar, the celebrated radio commentator. My father played, as a boy and young man for an amateur youth team of Ferencvaros when Ferencvaros and MTK were the top teams in Hungary, and he witnessed in 1911 the ticker tape parade though the main streets of the ninth district with players carried on the shoulders of supporters when Ferencvaros beat I Woking F.C, in England, at the time one of the best English teams. Schlosser, the greatest goal scorer was remembered in our household. So football is something I feel in my guts. Once I even paid good money and went to a game, but going on my own is not the same as sitting at home in front of the television and letting my hair down.