Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, I did something stupid. It was an international break and there were barely any games on, but I stumbled across a Hungarian match and sarcastically tweeted out my delight. A friend replied with a question: “If you had access to all TV channels, do you reckon you’d be able to watch a competitive fixture every day?”
And that was that. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to try it, to see how long I could last. I guess I also thought it would be fun, but I didn’t really think it through and before I knew it I’d sent out a tweet announcing the start of my challenge. The initial plan was to watch at least one half of live football, but the most I ever missed of a game was 20 minutes.
The first few weeks were quite cool. During my school and university years, I used to regularly stay up until 4am to watch Mexican and South American football just because I found the atmosphere and style of football so alluring. The early days of this project took me back to a time when I could remain awake until the early hours and watch random games with no consequence.
In the first couple of months, I watched the Moroccan Cup, the USL, the Guatemalan Liga Nacional, the Argentinian Superliga, second tier and cup, the Brazilian Serie A, Liga MX, the Chilean Primera and the Copa Sudamericana, to name but a few. That was also in the days of 140 Twitter characters, so the mini-reports were very mini indeed.
But as you can probably imagine, it soon became a chore. Although I do occasional freelance work, I don’t work in football full-time; that meant I could never watch games during the day because I had a real job to do, so there were times when I’d get back to my house at 11pm and have to tune in to some random South American game.
Cry me a river. I know, I know – it’s not the biggest ordeal in the world, but it did get wearing. And once I was in, I knew I couldn’t stop. It would have been too embarrassing to quit, and I guess I didn’t want to lose face.
There were certainly a few struggles along the way. When I broke my wrist and was forced to live at my gran’s for a week so I could use her automatic car, I had to watch games on my phone because I don’t have a laptop and she doesn’t have Sky. Antofagasta 1-1 ACSI is ingrained in my mind for that very reason.
On one weekend in June, I went to Download Festival on the Friday and Detonate Festival on the Saturday. Of course this meant leaving both events early – and sober – to make sure my run didn’t end. My rule was that if the game started in a particular country on a Thursday, that could be my match for the day – so there were times when I watched fixtures that kicked off at 1 or 2am UK time.
Christmas Day? That was actually easy. There was a Hong Kong Senior Shield semi-final broadcast live on Youtube at 7am, so I got up early and whacked on my PS4 to watch it through my TV. It turned out to be a fantastic tie, and gave me one of my most memorable moments from the entire challenge.
There were plenty of high points too, with the month of June a particular standout as I feasted on World Cup football. It was great to actually watch those games with other human beings; one of the most annoying things about the year has been the amount of times I’ve spent 90 minutes sat alone watching a crappy game I would otherwise have no interest in.
People often asked me why I was doing it, and the only answer I had for them was, “just to see if I can.” The face that stared back at me was usually one of befuddlement.
It hasn’t made me hate football, though. Some people thought it would, but it’s probably made me appreciate it even more. For every Royal Antwerp 0-0 Standard Liege’s and Liefering 0-0 Neustadt, there was an Al Ain 6-2 Al Wahda or a Chievo 2-3 Bologna. And as someone who suffers a little bit from FOMO, the challenge gave me the excuse to put off more important things and watch a game instead. After all, that’s one of the most frustrating things about being a football obsessive: watching loads of crap matches, then missing a brilliant one because you’ve got to make small talk at some boring social event. There wasn’t really any of that for me this past year.
Yet when I take everything into account, it’s hard to find too many positives – and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I know a few people did take inspiration from the idea and tried something similar, but I’m not sure how they got on.
Every now and again it was nice to see a familiar name pop up in an obscure league, such as when I saw Diego Buonanotte at Universidad Catolica in Chile and Rene Mihelic at Chennaiyin FC in India. And I also enjoyed watching football I wouldn’t have otherwise come across, motivated purely by the need to keep my stretch going.
I hope I continue watching such exotic leagues now that the project is over, but I’m not holding my breath. To be honest, I’m pretty exhausted by football right now – I just want to take myself off to a desert island and forget about it for a couple of months. Except I can’t, because this weekend I’m flying to Finland to watch Hungary play in Tampere.
Still, Thursday will be the first non-football day I’ve had for an entire year. And it will be absolutely bliss.