17 February 2020

Over the weekend I briefly met a fifty-something-year-old man who said three things that startled me: “you Catholics” in reference to his wife, “I’ll never play golf with her, I bought her a kitchen instead” also in reference to his wife, and “you can earn in one day at Liverpool what you’d take a whole career to earn as an All Black”.

From these statements, you may have deduced that the man is a Protestant, a golfer and a Liverpool Football Club supporter. Although he has lived in New Zealand for close to 50 years, since he was a child, he speaks with an Irish accent. His family hails from Belfast so marrying a Catholic verges on the anarchic. My hackles always rise at the term “you people”. It almost always leads to a version of “why don’t you go back to where you came from”. But in this case, he was talking about his wife, who one assumes he loves, who is the mother of his children and grandmother to their grandchildren. To talk about her as the other seems puzzling.

Although he was born sometime in the 1960s, he referred to golf as his domain and the kitchen as his wife’s. Adding insult to injury, he bought the kitchen for her! One surmises that he never goes in there so much as to make a cup of tea, let alone cook a meal or load the dishwasher.

He is one of those rabid football supporters whose team loyalty is unquestioned and unquestioning. These affiliations are almost tribal, which was perhaps more understandable in the days when one supported the local team and the players were people from one’s neighbourhood. But since the advent of professional football, undying loyalty to a team composed mostly of foreigners seems odd to me. The current team is made up of players from Spain, Germany, Brazil, Belgium, the Netherlands, Senegal, Cameroon and Egypt. They have no connection to Liverpool – they are only there because of the money. Van Dijk was bought for £75,000,000, Becker for £65,000,000 and Saleh for £43,900,000. Apart from his loyalty to a team that is neither headquartered in the city in which he was born nor the city in which he now lives, I was dismayed by his contempt for those who support a rugby team because of what the players earn. Putting aside my incredulity about fanatical support for any sports team, I was aghast that it is the money involved that seems to motivate him not the sporting prowess of the players or the achievements of the club.

More depressing to me than this though is that these are the kinds of attitudes I thought were a thing of the past. Religious freedom, equality for women and the intrinsic value of human endeavour are ideas that seem foreign to a man born in the middle of the 20th century, who lives in one of the most progressive countries in the world, not that he showed any evidence of it! Never mind, he was a passing acquaintance and I need never speak to him again.