By C.J.

The 1997 defeat of Utah Jazz against the behemoth Chicago Bulls was my first taste of heartbreak.

In 1998, I was numbed by the dominance of the Bulls. My young teenage heart, broken two times in a row was shattered, scattered all over the floor with absolutely no chance of repair.

I was raised by a father who almost worshiped Larry Bird on the hard court — yeah, that white dude from Boston Celtics, one of basketball’s icons. I grew up trading one NBA card for another, hearing all sorts of banter about the Ginebra-Alaska rivalry and in my heart, a brewing crush on then San Miguel Beer point guard extraordinaire Olsen Racela.

It was 2010 when I met someone (thank you for the inspiration to really go ahead and enjoy the beautiful game!) who had the audacity to phone in “late” to watch the World Cup. It was Germany vs. Spain in the semi-finals and a bloody octopus decided the fate of these two countries. A colleague who watched football did not help at all being a Brazil and Spain supporter. Nobody roots for Deutschland???

España prevailed against my GQ models Germans and eventually against the Dutch and even the local news was hyped. I can’t blame these folks, the Philippines was Spain’s daughter.

With Formula 1 witnessing a new era of German dominance (ehem, Sebastian Vettel), I decided to take it one step at a time that I come back in 2014 with fangs. DEUTSCHLAND, WE GOT THIS! IT’S IN THE BAG NEXT WORLD CUP!

If a friend could phone in late for work and cut his sleep for the matches, I can say, I can DO BETTER than that in country AND CLUB levels.

In 2013, Bayern ended a 12-year Champions League drought by securing the win courtesy of a last minute Arjen Robben goal at Wembley Stadium in London, England. To say I was elated could be an understatement. The moment of lifting the cup made up for my heartbreak of 1997. The following year, Germany earned its fourth star, 24 years in the making! Extra special if you’d ask me because the key players are from Bayern under the leadership of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger. I was in complete enchantment, quite unable to process thoughts. Ha! That’s for you, 1998 NBA finals! The World Cup 2014 crowning moment will go on for ages, a moment I will always tell my future children about. These moments indeed, make me fall in love with football over and over and over again.

In retrospect, my inner Germanophile has risen with Munich in my heart. Munich, a city in the predominantly Catholic state of Bavaria in southern Germany made me feel that there could be a place in me in Deutschland given the foundations of the same religion I share with its locals. I have loved DEU ever since. I only have high regards to the country and its people and it is only fitting to also go “full on” a city I have adored since that History 100 lesson in 2005.

Maybe, at this point, you are like myself, a curious spectator who did not know what to expect in football. I know you want to be part of the family so here are some tips to get you all started.

This post is certainly for you, the eight things to expect in football especially if you have grown up watching basketball in our, well, basketball loving country:

The clock never stops! In basketball, the play is disrupted. I was stunned when I realized that the players continue and the clock ceases to stop… I mean, in basketball, when someone falls, the referee stops the clock so the 12 minutes of play extends to a few more. In football though, to “make up” for the lost time, the referees set an extra time that ranges from a minute to up to six.

Three substitutions only. Yup, this is one of the rules that shocked me when I started fangirling in football. Of course in basketball, you can bench the player for a few minutes especially if the margin is really good (tambak) but in football, once the coach has sat the player down then, that’s it! Three substitutions! Hmmm what if the player is sent off? In Filipino, graduate because of accumulating six fouls? Then the squad will be down to 10 men. No choice.

Now that’s a massive field. Growing up, I was used to a closed arena with a hardwood. Watching football is just outright different. According to basketball’s governing body FIBA, the court measures 28 by 15 metres whilst football’s FIFA prescribes the pitch to be at 100–110 long by 64–73 metres wide. Now, do the math and estimate how many basketball courts can fit in a football pitch.

Home team goes first. In basketball, the  home team’s name appears last which is the opposite in football. I quite do not get why the home team is mentioned second in basketball, at least in NBA — is this a sign of hospitality?

There is a tie? Yup! In league games and group stages, a tie is fine because there is a scoring system in football that goes like this: three points for a win, one each for a draw and nil (zero) for a loss. At the end of the season or round, the points are added. If ties come in, the deciding factor is the goal difference which personally is sufficient to determine who goes to the next round. Goal difference is computed as this: BAYERN  5 – 0 DORTMUND. GD for Bayern is +5 because the club won and for Dortmund, -5 because the opponent scored five past them. For rounds like quarterfinals, semifinals or final where a winner needs to be determined, the game will extend to a 30 minute extra time and if still, the score is tied then a penalty shootout follows. Here is a clip of EURO 2016 quarterfinals penalty shootout thriller between two iconic teams, Azurri (Italy) and Die Mannschaft (Germany).

Goals don’t grow on trees. In football, patience is a virtue. Some games will really doze you off but some games just won’t. In all sports, it is not over until it is over. In football, you intensify this saying. Like maybe 10 times more. It is the final whistle that determines the fate of the competitors and all players must fight to their last breath to make sure they get a goal! Here is a clip that pits Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in 2013 where the score is tied at 1-1! Then, Mr.  Wembley strikes and the rest is history.

No additives. There are ultras, hooligans, the premier ticket holders, official football club members (like Mia San Manila!), viewing parties, banners, scarves, flags, no sexy cheerleaders, no popstars, no halftime performance, no crazy commercial breaks… just pure, unadulterated entertainment and display of agility and teamwork. Here is a clip from Bundesliga (top flight German league) because GERMAN FANS ARE THE BEST.

The club is bigger than anything. I remember how Filipinos followed Lebron James when he signed up in Miami leaving his hometown Cleveland. When the balance of power is cast upon a different basketball team, expect that fans cheer for it, leaving the old and worn-out team behind. This act is sacrilege in football. I consider my football club, FC Bayern Munich as kin, our bond as strong as blood. When you love a club, you love it until the end, no matter how lousy they are turning out to be. Supporting a football club is identifying with its ethos. No, you don’t support the club because this superstar plays there — if this is your reason, re-evaluate your choices for stars come and go but the club and what it stands for remains.

If you want to add more, please do so on the comments section — a perfect avenue to spend your lockdown time wisely!

C.J. is currently a teacher of a Christian Chinese school in Quezon City.

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