Let’s be honest for a moment. I don’t really like football. I just can’t get excited about a load of grown men chasing a ball up and down a field, when we all know they’d rather be counting their rather ludicrous weekly salaries into the hands of the nearest Bentley dealer.
So it’s fair to say I’m not exactly gripped by World Cup fever. However, my 5-year-old son is at an impressionable age, and with most of his school friends utterly absorbed by the goings on in South Africa, it’s only right that I try to show a little interest for his sake.
As we’re not blessed with ITV and the BBC who are no doubt showing little else this month, we have to actively search out a provider here to beam the games live into our living room. Now this really shouldn’t be too difficult. But this is Dubai. This is the place where to sign up for a pay as you go mobile you need the inside leg measurement of your husband’s CEO, a letter of no objection from your landlord written in sheep’s blood, and 27 copies of your best friends passport. Nothing, is simple.
My quest for football went something like this.
1) Call cable tv provider. Discover they don’t offer a World Cup channel package. They suggest I call our telephone provider.
2) Call telephone provider. They tell me to go to their nearest ‘Customer Centre’ at the shopping mall.
3) Visit ‘Customer Centre’. Hand over lots of documents. I am told all is good and I just need to go to the ‘E-vision’ Customer Centre to buy my access card.
4) Drive across town to ‘E-vision’ Customer Centre. They don’t sell cards and besides, I don’t have the right package so aren’t eligible even if they did.
I’ll admit to a bit of frustration creeping into the proceedings at this point. As the woman behind the counter tried to determine what ‘package’ I was on (because obviously, the ‘system’ couldn’t tell her this key information), I could feel an ounce of irritation slipping into my voice. She showed me various decoder boxes and asked me to identify mine. It had bizarre connotations of The Generation Game and the conveyor belt with all the gifts on that the guests had to do their best to memorize. The classic, “fondue set, cuddly toy” shenanigans. Only this game wasn’t nearly as fun. And I definitely didn’t win anything.
Once we’d discovered I didn’t have a decoder and was therefore a lost cause, I shuffled out of the building, muttering and shaking my head as I went. Frustrated, yes. Defeated… never!
So, off to a petrol station. There was a rumour going around that cards could be purchased here. Full of enthusiasm for my new line of enquiry, I beamed at the assistant and asked for an Al Jazeera Fifa card. See, at this point, I’ve even got the lingo sorted.
“Sorry, Ma’am. Cards no more. Technical issues.”
Off to HyperPanda. This really was to be my last attempt. I was weak. I was hot. I couldn’t take much more.
I limped up to the Customer Service counter ready for rejection. “Al Jazeera Fifa cards?”, I muttered.
“Yes Ma’am. Come back at 1 o’clock”
No, no, no. You don’t understand. I haven’t felt my life ebbing away for the past 2 hours for you to tell me to come back later. I am here now. And I WILL be purchasing the Al Jazeera Fifa card. I slumped on the desk and for the first time, I felt that someone acknowledged my pain. He made a phone call. A man appeared at a trestle table and told me that for 455 dhs, I could have the Holy Grail that is the Al Jazeera Fifa card. To be perfectly honest, at this stage, I’d have agreed to anything.
I filled in an order form. We discussed installation procedures. I signed things. I have no idea what. I was then sent to a till. I queued with my piece of paper behind 7 people, all of whom were buying provisions to feed their entire neighbourhoods for the next month. After 14 minutes, the man in front of me placed a single bottle of water on the belt and reached for his cash. I wearily set down my order form onto the conveyor belt and started rummaging in my handbag for my wallet. I looked up just in time to see my order form disappearing under the end of the belt as the cashier had failed to stop it moving.
“SSSSSSSSSSSTOP” I shrieked like a banshee. I wasn’t intending to be quite so loud but this was a desperate situation. People froze in horror as they stared at the crazy expat lady. The cashier had a coronary and I threw myself onto the belt and started desperately tugging at the remaining centimetre of order form. It really was that farcical. If I’d had the energy, I would have cried.
It took a moment, but composure was regained and I duly paid for my piece of paper before being sent back to the trestle table to collect my card. My man had disappeared, but his replacement told me that he had gone to collect my card and would be back any moment.
It turns out, he’d gone to Cape Town to collect my card. I stood, I did some more muttering. I lost the will to live.
And then he returned. And he had an Al Jazeera Fifa card. It was an emotional moment.
And so a plea, to the great God of football wherever you may be, please can you just make sure that England don’t get knocked out of the competition before we figure out how to install the damn thing. I’d be REALLY grateful.