WANJURAH: Of fathers, daughters, missing mothers and sports
The guy behind was screaming obscenities and cursing so much that the child seated next to me with his daddy began agitating to go home.
I figured she was just shy of three years judging by her inchoate vocabulary. That is what fatherhood does to you. It gifts you a calibrator of children’s milestones such that whenever you see one, you tend to launch into an internal test of your parenting knowhow as if someone had dared to doubt it. Often, there will be no one to impress with the guesses, but you’ll still do it anyway!
“Daddy, I want to go,” she shrieked again. The dad had tried to bribe her away from her growing restlessness with a packet of crisps. But after a few crunches, she seemed to prefer the taste of going home. The man then reached out for his phone and tried to calm her with games. But the girl was clearly agitated. And the vulgar fan behind us was doing little to calm her.
Marouane Fellaini especially seemed to agitate him. Whenever the lanky Belgian midfielder, his height accentuated by his signature mane now dyed white, touched the ball, his hater’s expletives rose to a torrent. “I have f….. never liked him. Go back to Moyes, loser! What a f….. load of shit! Geez, aren’t you really crap!”
His were rhetorical questions, and curses. But his seatmate and apparent friend attempted an answer. “I’m sure Mourinho will deal with his [expletive]… doesn’t seem to like the idiot either. Guess this game will help him finger which [expletive] to flush….”
I felt sorry for the dad. The Chevrolet branded tee shirt and a scarf suggested he was a Manchester United fanatic like the sea of red surrounding us. He was trying to juggle attention to his nagging daughter and a keen eye on the action on the pitch. But as the game wore on, so did the patience of the young girl.
She grew increasingly petulant. Now she was refusing to sit down and insisting on daddy holding her. But as soon as he obliged, she demanded I move away from my seat. Feeling sorry for the terrorised dad, I offered to help him hold her. She slapped me in a childish tantrum. Her violence was commendable for its accuracy for she got me smack on the cheek. I was lucky the effort was from infantile hands.
“Daddy, he just said [expletive]! Mummy says only bad girls say that. Daddy, daddy,” she screamed as she pushed his face violently behind to confront the cursing fan, “he has said [expletive]Mummy says it’s bad manners. Beat him daddy. Beat him!”
The dad’s eyes were riveted on a rare promising move by the home team. In the few seconds it took for the opportunity to abort in another harmless corner kick, the impatient daughter had taken matters into her own puerile hands. “You’re bad, bad, bad. Say sorry or I will tell mummy!” She then aimed a spat at the vulgar man direction that only went as a far as down her yellow Minion jacket!
She eventually succeeded into forcing her dad to abandon the game for home. As he left, he turned to me and once again apologised for her tender violence. I felt sorry for him. My attention then turned to my immediate neighbour to the right. He was yet another father in the company of his daughter. But at least his daughter was less restless.
That was because she was older, perhaps four-and-a-half or five. I had been eavesdropping him inducting her into the folklore of his club by teaching her club songs such as “Glory, glory Man United…” He also patiently recited her the team line-up while answering her childish but thoughtful questions. Why, for instance, was Ashley Young jersey number 18 when there were only 11 players in the team!
Wasn’t De Gea obviously better than Rooney because he wore Number One jersey compared to the latter’s 10. If as her dad insisted every player was fantastic, why then the many substitutions? And was it true Fellaini was “[expletive]” as the man behind us had said? If Mourinho was so good, why was he not playing?
The many dads with young daughters for company were a conspicuous sight at Old Trafford. I imagine it is all about British football clubs culture. Loyalty tends to be a genealogy affair. Children are a born into a club in which the family tree is deeply rooted. The dedicated love is watered by an equally passionate hate for rival clubs. For instance, asked by his daughter if Everton players were also great, the man dismissed them as “chicken [expletive]!”
It got me thinking about the missing mothers. With two in every ten couples in the UK either separated or divorced, it is possible some of the dads were single fathers with no one to leave their kids with. But I suspect majority had wives or partners who prefer the warmth of the house and a good TV soap to the raucousness of live football.
Thus for many dads, tagging along a daughter with many signs of growing up to inherit her mother distaste for the beautiful game becomes an obligation. Until she is old enough to plainly tell daddy that football bores her to sleep, he will faithfully take her with him to matches and do his part to pass down generations the family obsession.
Its reminds me of schools’ sports day. Almost always, mothers outnumber fathers in such events. You will find mothers, many who have taken the day off from work to honour the date, taking trouble to dress the part. Usually, they will turn up in flashy sports gear tailored to conceal fault lines or pronounce strongholds.
By contrast, the few men present often look like they were diverted to the event on their way to more “important” missions. Their sense of dressing for the occasion will be jeans and sneakers. Others simply leave the tie in the car, fold their trousers and remove the shoes to participate in the parents’ race.
But while dads honour the spirit of the event by volunteering participation, many mothers will prefer their phones. The only time their eyes take a break from their handsets is when cheering daddy or taking photos of their kids at the finish line. By then, their Facebook page will be full of pictures of them at the sports day. Unlike dads and regular football games though, sports day for mums is often a once-a-term event!
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