When Girish Navani and I were rooming together at university I saw it as my duty to educate this poor boy on the beautiful game of football. Girish had come to the UK from India to study and whilst he was a sports lover, it was cricket which he was most passionate about. Girish had an interest in sports but he just couldn’t quite get into the heart of what football means for people from the UK, so I had a mission on my hands. I decided to spend every weekend with Girish in an effort to turn him into a real football fan, and here is how I did it.
To truly understand football and what it means there is no point simply putting the Premier League on the TV. I decided that to really get to the nitty gritty the best course of action was to take Girish to some lower league football, where passion was high and the quality was, well, lower. We decided to go and watch Gateshead v Hartlepool, a local derby between two teams in the 4th division. Here Girish saw it all, the violent abuse from the crowd, a last minute winner which sent everyone into raptures and I even taught him the value of a half-time pie and hot drink.
Match of the Day
Next up I wanted to show Girish the national institution which is Match of the Day, a highlights show which has been running for over 50 years, every Saturday night. This is part and parcel of football for me and so I wanted to introduce Girish to the show. We sat down every Saturday night and watched Gary Lineker and the other pundits talk about the events of the day. This was a great introduction for Girish because the show focuses on every game from the day, not just the main events.
Picking a Team
Being a fan of football in general is one thing but to truly understand and realize the passion which goes into the game, Girish had to pick himself a team. After talking about the types of teams he liked, and trying to link his character to that of a football team, we finally settled on West Ham, in part because of that Green Street movie too! The following week we managed to get tickets to see West Ham, and Girish couldn’t wait.
In the week leading up to the event I told Girish that he needed to brush up on his football knowledge and so he began to go through a little bit of history about the Hammers. I gave Girish a test on the Friday night to ensure that he was ready for the part, which he was. I will never forget that look on his face as we walked up the steps of the stadium and he gazed upon that green surface for the first time, mission accomplished!