Jet Lag Football

I’ve just finished watching ‘Sportscene’ – the weekly highlights programme for the SPL. For the past five, six, nay seven years I’ve not been a regular viewer. But I’ve seen every episode so far this season… Why the sudden interest?

I’ve got 3 possible answers: A) this is how my homesickness has chosen to manifest – I’m not overly missing family, friends or the driving rain; but I’m getting misty eyed at the sight of Tynecastle or Fir Park on my laptop. B) There’s no Rangers, so I don’t have to fast forward through their matches. C) There’s no Dunfermline, my hometown team, after last season’s relegation and I don’t have to witness their weekly attempts to re-invent football as a sport where silly things like possession and goals are soooo overrated.

Or maybe it’s because I can’t actually watch that much football in Hong Kong. The TV package to which I subscribe doesn’t have the Premiership, the Champions’ League or most other European Leagues – I’m left with La Liga, the J League, the Brasileriao (?), the Eredivisie (??) and, for the truly desperate, the HK League. I chose this package as they had exclusive Euro 2012 rights; but now that’s all done and dusted I’m beginning to regret my choice. Even if I did have more to choose from I would be unable to watch the majority of it…

Your average Premiership game kicks off at 10/11pm here. The Champions’ League gets going at the unthinkable time of 3am on a weekday morning. That’s not a ‘stay up late’ time or a ‘get up early’ time – it’s just no man’s time. It makes me wonder how the Asian market became so lucrative for the big European teams, as your average Chinese, Japanese or Korean ‘fan’ must rarely catch a live match. 

Watching Euro 2012, incidentally, was an endurance test. Sometimes I managed to stay awake through the early kick off (finishing at 2am HK time). But, with class upon class of hyperactive 8 year olds waiting for me the next day, watching the late game was out of the question. So, I had to run a gauntlet of emails, texts, websites and idle staff-room chatter each day to arrive home unscathed and enjoy the previous night’s games. Even the MTR journey to work was fraught with dangers – they’ve only gone and stuck TVs all around the carriages! I soon learned to keep my eyes on the floor and my earphones buried deep. Surprisingly, I only failed twice. On the first occasion I had barely stepped on to the train when waiting for me, like a bucket of water propped on top of the door, was a screen announcing: UKRAINE 2 SWEDEN 1. I hadn’t had time to think, and it ruined my day. On the second occasion, settling down for England – Sweden, I opened a message from an otherwise reliably non-footballing friend declaring lots of love for Theo Walcott. Ruined my weekend, that one.

Anyway, as the season gets into its rhythm, I’m still working out how to enjoy football here. It looks like it’s going to be lots of scrappy online clips and an eventual love for Kitchee (HK league champs, in case you wonder…) Next year, Match of the Day is going to be readily available online, so perhaps the sight of Alan Hansen’s louche slumping will tug my heartstrings as much as shots of the Caledonian Homes Stadium do now…

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