Plus, a simple primer to two of the world’s most popular sports.
By Narisa ‘Nina’ Phichitsingh
“Barca 8 pm.”
“Messi just got sold to PSG?!”
“How did Japan lose Oman? We are down in the group now.”
These are phrases I hear my husband say (or shout with glee) every few days since the day I married him. I usually respond with rolled eyes, grumbling, or walking away with irritation; but I must admit, there have been moments where I do catch a glimpse of a match under more favourable circumstances, and it’s not that excruciating. When my husband takes the time to explain the players’ history, a record being broken, or just a fun anecdote, my interest spikes a little, especially if it’s not in the middle of a bunch of men high on testosterone arguing over a foul.
To honour my husband’s interest, I sat down with him to learn some facts and simple rules about his top two favourite sports: tennis and football (or soccer).
Invented in: 12th Century France
Rules for Tennis: Scoring in tennis is unique. Depending on the format, players need to win two or three set points (best of three or five respectively) against their opponent. Each set point consists of winning six game points. Each game point is tallied by the first to get four points (starting at love or 0, then going up to 15, 30, 40, then game point). In the event the scores are tied, there are deuces and tiebreakers. Each player alternates serves per game point.
Main Events – Four Grand Slams: Australian Open (January, Hard Court), French Open (June, Clay Court), Wimbledon(July, Grass Court), US Open (September, Hard Court)
Best Singles Male Players (Today): Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have each won 20 Grand Slams apiece; the highest record in history.
Pay Attention To: Daniil Medvedev finally got his revenge against Djokovic at the US Open final after losing in the same matchup at the Australian Open finals. Djokovic missed the opportunity to be the first player in 52 years to win all four grand slams in a single year, what’s known as a ‘career slam.’
Best Singles Female Players (Today): Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka
Pay Attention To: The US Open just saw two teenagers fight for glory for the first time since 1999. 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, from Great Britain (half-Romanian, half-Chinese) went on to win the whole thing and shock the world. 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez from Canada (half-Ecuadorian, half-Filipino) also showed an unforgettable performance, taking out ex-champ Naomi Osaka and World No. 2 Sabalenka to reach the final.
Invented in: England, in 1863
An oft-quoted phrase is, “football is more than a sport; it’s love.” The passion for the game has filled cities and even ended a civil war (Ivory Coast 2005).
Rules for Football: Two teams of 11 play against each other, with the aim to score in the opposite teams’ goal. Only each team’s respective goalie is allowed to use their hands to pass the ball. Playing while ‘offside’ is the most controversial offense of football, and is one of the harder rules to explain or prove. Feel free to yell it out during a match though, just to start an argument. Foul play is punishable by yellow cards (a warning, and sometimes a temporary gameplay suspension for that player) or a red card (the players must leave the game immediately and can’t be replaced).
Footballers play for a single team in a country’s league. If gifted enough, players can be selected to play for their country. Example: Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Manchester United in the English Premier League, and the Portugal National Team. Players can be transferred to different clubs, and the biggest rivalry everyone enjoys in Thailand is Liverpool vs Manchester United.
Most Notable Players of today: Lionel Messi (Paris Saint Germain [PSG]), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Most Notable Clubs: Liverpool (England), Manchester United (England), Real Madrid (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany)
Notable Country Leagues – Club: Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain) Notable Continent Leagues – Club: UEFA Champions League (Europe), Copa Libertadores (South America)
Notable National Tournaments – Country: Euro Cup, Copa America, and the FIFA World Cup
Masala gets some insight from three women who’ve learned to love watching sports themselves:
Thai-Indian living in the UK
“I started watching football (or what Americans call soccer) with my husband, who is from Spain. Although he grew up in America and now lives in London, he still supports his local club, Deportivo La Coruña, which is in the north of Spain. Just the passion I see he has for the game and supporting his local club made me want to watch it with him. He likes to tell me about the history of the club, how they are a small team but very passionate and less commercial than Real Madrid or Barcelona, and how they won the Copa del Rey (The King’s Cup) against Real Madrid on their 100th anniversary in their stadium!
“Since we live in London, we like to go to a Spanish bar in Portobello whenever there is a big match, and I love to watch how people sing the anthem of their club and how they cheer. We watched the whole Euro 2020 cup, and I remember in the semi-finals of Italy vs Spain and Denmark vs England, we were on different sides as I really wanted England to win!”
Thai-Indian living in Pattaya
“I wouldn’t say we regularly watch sports, however, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics had us hooked. Despite being oblivious of so many sporting activities, we were eager to witness this much-awaited world sporting event. My husband, Chaetan Saheb, and I would often be cheering for the underdogs – whether it’s a team or individuals. It’s amazing to witness new talents emerge and showcase their lifelong hustle in a matter of usually a few seconds. It takes immense willpower, discipline and above all, a sense of calm to be there and represent your nation with the world’s best. Simply put, Netflix and Prime had taken a vacation.”
Thai-Indian living in Bangkok
“I started watching football and cheering for Manchester United because of my Dad. Now watching football with my husband, I still cheer for Manchester United while my husband supports Arsenal. And now I’m hoping my son will cheer for United as well!”