My dirty little football secret

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    Saturday saw my sister-in-law get married. For the first time. In Sydney. On the same weekend as the first round of the A-League.

    Thanks Betty, much appreciated.

    For years, football fans had to keep their passion for the game a little hidden in some quarters. I still get the odd jibe about the game’s ethnic roots, simulation and an ill-informed perception of a lack of toughness among the players.

    Thankfully there is a much broader acceptance and appreciation of the game among casual sports observers in the country these days.

    However, these poorly planned nuptials resulted in a return to the dark days of my youth. A time when I had to make a genuine effort to keep football fandom under wraps.

    It was a time when football was a dirty little secret that, if discovered, would see you left off the guest lists of the cool kids’ parties and lose all respect in the league-dominant community.

    In this context, it wasn’t a fear of public humiliation or aggressive jibes and teasing, merely the issue of trying to watch two games of opening round A-League in the middle of a wedding ceremony and reception.

    A 5:30pm M1 derby and a 7:50pm kick off for the 44th incarnation of the Big Blue would make this wedding seem far less important than it should.

    A 45-minute drive gave me a chance to plan. Finding an appropriate seat in the church would be key. A pew where a subtle look at the Huawei to keep up with the breaking news through the day would go unnoticed by anyone important.

    Locating a phone-charging station in the reception venue in case of emergency was desirable yet unlikely, as was finding a little hovel where I could duck away and soak in some of the action at the dull moments – you know the ones, the bridal waltz, the cutting of the cake and that awful moment where the bride and groom actually come to your table to chat.

    A voice inside kept telling me that I couldn’t pull this off. I considered pulling over and dry retching. I could jump out and get an Uber home; “I’m sorry darling, I hate to miss the wedding but I’m just not well.”

    She knows me better than that. Much better.

    This day would be a monumental challenge to undertake and a daring attempt to hide my dirty little secret. Fortunately, it started well.

    An early entry to the church pulled a great spot, back-left corner, phone in left pocket. On silent. Perfect.

    A few notifications came through, nothing important, mostly Sydney FC news from fans who had taken the trip down to Melbourne for the match.

    I made sure I sang along, threw a few smiles in the right direction, all the while caring far more about Adrian Mierzejewski feeding passes to set up Bobo at AAMI Park.

    Having made it through the service scot-free, now I faced the challenge of getting through the reception, where I would undoubtedly be expected to discuss the day, the occasion and the happy couple’s future.

    There was another occasion of which I was far more interested. An M1 derby had kicked off and my 65-inch television was sitting at home, lonely, without me.

    Trying to keep track of the first 30 minutes in Gosford proved futile, thanks to the collective efforts of Asdrubal and Roy O’Donovan. Each time I looked at my device, the score had changed.

    Roy O'Donovan of the Jets celebrates scoring

    AAP Image/Darren Pateman

    Labouring through a tedious seafood entree, seemingly designed to take maximum consumption time thanks to the vast amount of de-shelling and shucking required, I missed it all.

    My bride turned to me right on the stroke of halftime and said, “It’s a beautiful wedding isn’t it?” I don’t think my response had the enthusiasm expected.

    As the throng began to socialise I found time to duck away, only to watch a scoreless period in the game. Guilt-ridden I returned, to subsequently receive notifications of the Jets’ two late goals.

    Ticked off by this stage, I inhaled the mains (unfortunately I copped the chicken, despite craving the eye fillet) in an attempt to create as significant a window as possible to catch Victory-Sydney FC.

    It was a masterclass in artful deception and subterfuge from beginning to end. Drifting from dance floor to bar to bathroom, where I’m sure some people were concerned about the number of times I was ‘powdering my nose’, the secrecy blended in naturally with the festivities.

    The grinding nature of the contest probably worked in my favour and when the own-goal did arrive, being positioned at the bar with another football fan allowed for something of a muted celebration.

    With a second half that didn’t rise to any great heights and the pattern of play suggesting Sydney had decided to lock things down, I resorted to frequent score checks.

    Full-time came with the pleasing knowledge that an IQ box had been running at home and all the pre-game, post-game and highlights could be savoured on arrival.

    I pulled it off, stayed in the good books with those who matter, and met every family obligation on the day.

    I’m pretty sure they were all oblivious and as I was driven home by my darling, designated driver wife, I felt content that no one had been made aware of my dirty little secret.

    Until she said, “So, it was one-nil then.”

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • October 11th 2017 @ 7:23am
      Buddy said | October 11th 2017 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      I’m glad to say I have never suffered in that sense or been deprived of what has amounted to the longest love affair of my life. Back in the days when football in the UK was played on a Saturday, my sister got married on a Sunday which was unusual but it meant that her husband to be and myself could go to football on the Saturday. My next sister and husband to be consulted the fixture list when it came out in June and opted for a day when her husband’s team was playing away in Newcastle and he wouldn’t have gone to the game anyway. I was listening to the game in church and offered an update as they walked down the aisle. I could cite several more examples to bore you with, suffice to say I was married outside of the season…….. after all it is all about priorities! No dirty secrets around here!

    • October 11th 2017 @ 7:49am
      jamesb said | October 11th 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      “Saturday saw my sister-in-law got married. For the first time.”

      Maybe I’m taking it out of context, but do you expect your sister-in-law to get married again?

      • Columnist

        October 11th 2017 @ 1:01pm
        Stuart Thomas said | October 11th 2017 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

        For her sake I hope not. She is fifty though, which is slightly unusual. She’s more a rugby fan and showed no consideration to the football community with her choice of date. You would think people would check these things.

        • October 11th 2017 @ 3:02pm
          jamesb said | October 11th 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

          You know what, congrats to your sister in law. I think it’s brilliant that she found happiness at fifty. It’s never too late.

          Maybe cut her a bit of slack. Just this one time for your sake

    • October 11th 2017 @ 7:56am
      Yowzers said | October 11th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      I still calls it the F3 Derby, stuff the bureaucrats.

      Good read though Stuart. Sister in laws are a curse to us all, haha.

    • October 11th 2017 @ 8:07am
      Nemesis said | October 11th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      Ha! Nice read, Stuart.

    • Roar Guru

      October 11th 2017 @ 8:22am
      AdelaideDocker said | October 11th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Haha, this is a great read Stuart!

      Reminds me of the time I was at the movies with the family during one of Fremantle’s finals in footy. Let’s just say, there wasn’t much movie watching, and a lot of “bathroom trips” to see the score. We lost in the end, though.

    • October 11th 2017 @ 9:23am
      E-Meter said | October 11th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Sounds more like your sister in law is a rugby league or AFL supporter. She planned her wedding to perfection.

      • Columnist

        October 11th 2017 @ 10:21am
        Stuart Thomas said | October 11th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        She married a Kiwi, enough said hey?

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