It s very difficult to talk about sports as Palestinians in Gaza are being slaughtered right and left by this latest Israeli barbarity. The atrocity is the talking point of the moment; we really shouldn t be talking about anything else. In fact, in the face of this assault and carnage, you would suffer from a huge guilty conscience should your conversation swerve away from the Gaza conflagration brought upon by this Israeli outrage.
But for a moment, if we could numb our emotions and talk about something else, it would be football, for football has been proven the number one topic of conversation in the world. That was the finding of a recent Barclays Premier League survey of 32,000 fans polled globally. Football (81 percent) was the subject most discussed with friends. General sports (47 percent), music (27 percent) and relationships (26 percent) trailed in second, third and fourth. Football dominates the thoughts of fans worldwide, so much that it is viewed as the most important activity in life (49 percent), ahead of family matters (48 percent), a job (30 percent) and personal relationships (30 percent). While supporters from the United Kingdom (55 percent) and United Arab Emirates (45 percent) indicated that football is the most important activity in their life, football followers in Latin countries such as Spain (56 percent), Portugal (57 percent) and Italy (49 percent), considered family matters more important.
Fans from Egypt appear to be the most fervent followers of the game, with 59 percent declaring football the most important activity in their life, while over nine in 10 people (92 percent) admitted it was the topic of conversation mostly discussed with friends.
And the most common subject in breaking the ice among Egyptians? Football (71 percent). This theme is repeated across the globe with fans from Europe, Africa and Asia in agreement that football is the ideal ice breaker. The Premier League specifically (50 percent) is favorite among Nigerian supporters, though Kenyan supporters do buck the trend. Respondents from the East African country prefer to discuss topics such as the economy (46 percent) and politics (46 percent) when meeting new people in a work-related situation.
Eighty-one percent of fans across the globe highlighted football as their most regular topic of conversation, ahead even of relationships (26 percent), family matters (24 percent) and the economy (21 percent).
Fifty-two percent also chose football as the perfect ‘break the ice’ topic when meeting someone for the first time – 28 percent would talk about the Premier League specifically. An indication that the game is starting to have a far greater influence in the US, a country for so long dominated by American football, basketball and baseball, is that respondents from the United States say soccer is the most discussed subject amongst friends (59 percent).
I used to think the most famous ice breaker was the weather. That could be followed by traffic and what you do for a living. Another biggie is how expensive things have become, which usually opens the floodgates for a tirade against the government and its self-serving politicians, crooked businessmen and corruption. A constantly revisited theme is the vast number of veiled Egyptian teen girls who are now walking around on the streets hand-in-hand with their boyfriends. Another popular all-time conversation piece is what life was like when an egg cost a fraction of a piaster, and when girls who were not veiled did not walk around hand-in-hand with their boyfriends.
We must confess: We are not all and always talking about the Gaza bloodbath. We are discussing and will be watching today s crucial Ahly-Ismaili league clash and we will be engrossed in its affairs, probably just as one more criminal Israeli missile slams into Gazan territory, buildings, and may be into Gazan people.
In an ideal world, the tragedy in Gaza would be the only subject on our minds. The dead and dying in Gaza are worthier of our thoughts than a football game. Many are civilians, many are children, all are human beings, all hostages, an imprisoned, occupied and poor population on the frontline of unprecedented Israeli thuggery.
If Gaza should be the center of attention, topic No 2 would be how ineffectual and irrelevant the response to the devastation has been: Complacency, timid mutterings, silence, rhetoric, inaction. and football.