This week, millions of alarms across Australia and the World will sound during the dead of night as impassioned football fanatics flick on the telly to watch the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It’s a tournament where nations seemingly compete for eternal glory. But the World Cup can also bring nations to their knees and grown adults to tears when their team loses (such as when Brazil embarrassingly lost 7-1 against Germany at their home World Cup in 2014). There is even research suggesting that being a spectator of a stressful football match can double your chance of an acute cardiovascular event!
This might seem odd to some of us. Which is understandable – on first thought 22 blokes kicking some sort of leather in a place you have never heard of shouldn’t affect you, your partner or your friend. But it does. It causes them to jump up on the couch, fists raised, to celebrate a goal. Or it causes them to feel despondent and helpless after a loss.
Why are they so invested?
Much like other groups in society (think social, church, family, etc.), supporting a team brings about a sense of community, connection and belonging with others. Fans are emotionally invested in their teams. Over time, they feel like they are part of the team: the team’s win is their win, and the team’s loss is their loss.
How can I help?
It can be tricky to know how to comfort someone who’s feeling down because their team has lost. It can be wise to give them some space and let them reflect on the defeat. But here are a few other thoughts that might be helpful to remind them:
- “We move on to next week” – Like athletes everywhere, choose to focus on the next challenge. There isn’t a World Cup every week but there are always games in the future – the Socceroos will challenge for the Asian Cup in 2023.
- Reflect on the positives – Which youngsters made their mark on the World Stage? How about that Goal that we scored? At least we qualified – that’s better than Italy.
- Chat it out – It’s important to talk to others about how we’re feeling. This helps us to realise that we’re not alone and can lead to further connection with others.
- Change colours (temporarily) – Who doesn’t love an underdog? You could support Mexico for their cool kit, or join the raucous cries of “IT’S COMING HOME!” Find another team to cheer on for the rest of the tournament.
- Support the other Aussies – If the Socceroos get knocked out, there’s still another chance for some Aussies to get on the field for a knock-out game. Chris Beath and his team will be attending the World Cup as referees. Maybe we can’t play, but can ref?
- Make a substitution – Summer of Cricket or the beach, anyone?
Please note that it’s advised you seek professional help if you’re experiencing low mood or distress that lingers for more than a couple of days after your team’s loss. The Centre for Effective Living has an experienced team of Psychologists that can help.
Sam Kelly (B Psych (Hons 1)) is a warm and supportive Provisional Psychologist who understands the importance of collaboration and trust in the therapeutic relationship. Sam uses compassion and curiosity to develop a shared understanding of his client’s situation, including their strengths and resources.
Sam is an accredited facilitator of the Study Without Stress Group Program and a Morrisby Profile Advisor. In addition, Sam also supports clients participating on the Centre for Effective Living’s HeadStart Programme.
Outside of work, Sam enjoys keeping active, watching sport, going on adventures and relaxing with his family and friends.