Everyone remembers their first time. First kisses, first loves, first times having sex are memories that stay with you forever. And before you panic and begin worrying about the path I’m taking here, what I want to talk about today is how I became enamored with the beautiful game.
I was 10 and it was World Cup ’94. I had read about football in the papers and had watch the occasional Malaysian League game on TV, which Singapore was once part of (I’m Singaporean btw), but it wasn’t until the World Cup that I seriously got into football. Because of differences in time zones and that I had to get up early for school, the daily reports on the newspapers was my only means of keeping in touch with what’s happening in the World Cup. I read the newspaper reports diligently and decided that I would support Italy and that Roberto Baggio would be my favorite player. The newspapers, I recall, illustrated his magical run in the semi-final match against Bulgaria and that for me, was the stuff of dreams.
I remember also waking up early to catch the finals – Brazil vs. Italy – to watch with my Dad. It was a scintillating match but unfortunately I had to leave for school just as extra-time was over. The moment I reached school, I grabbed my phone card, dashed to the nearest public phone and called home to find out the result. I couldn’t believe Baggio had missed.
With the World Cup over, I bought Fifa International Soccer for my Sega Genesis and it was only then that I learnt about club teams such as Milan, Juventus, Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid. In a time where there was no Internet, Fifa International Soccer, despite being only a video-game, was my football bible. I would play Fifa diligently and learn who was who and from which club. It was only after playing Fifa that I learnt Baggio was playing for Juventus. Logically, given that I idolized Baggio, I should have grown up as a Juventus, but I’m didn’t (I’m 101% Milanista if you haven’t realized), and I was only too happy when Baggio signed for Milan a year later.
However, I wasn’t a diehard fan yet, at least I didn’t consider myself to be one. It was only until I moved, a year or two after the World Cup that I became a true football fanatic. I was cycling around and came across a group of kids who were playing football. They invited me to join and from then on, we met almost every evening, muddy field or not, to play. This went on for the next four or so years, until it became more and more frustrating to get enough people for a decent game – since most of us were increasingly more burdened with other commitments.
All this was more than 11 years ago and I have been a football fan ever since. All this brings a smile to my face as I reminiscence about the past, and this is the story of how I got started. What’s yours?