Now, as many of you know, I like to both play and watch sport at home. In fact, I would say my ‘like’ for it was bordering on an obsession. For the last 21 years, give or take, my weekends have been organised around sport. In the summer it’s cricket and in the winter it’s football. So, leaving for China I was anxious to find out my options…
When I first started work, I thought what better way to get to know people than ask if they were in to sport? First stop was my predecessor – a Greek American who told me, “I do like to watch soccer on the big screen occasionally.” Two things wrong with that… ‘soccer’ and ‘occasionally’. I moved on to other topics of interest.
Second stop was my boss. Being Australian, he had to be a shoo-in. I had noticed him wearing an Australian Rugby jacket, so with the recent autumn internationals taking place, I asked if he fancied watching the upcoming England Vs. Australia match. He replied, “I hate rugby mate, I moved back to China to get away from it”.
Two expats down, I reckoned I would ask a couple of my local team members what they liked doing on the weekend. The first, one of the more jovial members, actually got out of his chair to demonstrate his response. After a few added sound effects, I worked out it was boxing. Not a great spectator sport and not something at the age of 27, a beer belly and glasses, I wanted to participate in.
The second, a ‘cool’ looking member of the team, looked promising. Indeed he was – a huge basketball fan (like most of China) and also into football. Jackpot. After a few exchanges on basketball (apparently Scottie Pippen retired years ago), we got onto football. Excited to find someone to chat to about sport, I asked him with huge anticipation who he supports. “I support David Beckham” was his response. Such promise. He did invite me to play with his friends though, to which I accepted out of hand, until I found out he lives two hours outside central Shanghai.
Finally, I found success! Having met a few Europeans at a Halloween party a few months back (Clark Kent, a Vicar and a Gorilla to be exact), I arranged to meet them to watch a game one weekend. Now, there’s a regular group of us who watch sport most Saturdays. Unable to find anything to participate in yet (apart from beating Michelle at table tennis), I have been spectating a lot. The Shanghainese have certainly nailed the concept of a sports bar – dedicated table service, every premier league match on a different TV, great food, happy hour (for three hours)… even the back of the urinal is a huge widescreen TV!
Next step is to find some way of participating, update to follow soon…