I’ve been in love with football for a long time.
As a football fan who watches and plays the game, few things are better than the big tournaments. I’m talking about the World Cup, the Euros, the Champions League!
Well, I’ve been following Euro 2020 that was delayed from last year due to COVID-19.
And… I know a little about the teams and their players, enough to make predictions on how the teams will perform based on their likely line-up and tactics.
So it came as a pleasant surprise to me — as someone who doesn’t even dabble in Fantasy Premier League — that for this tournament, I’ve been accurate with about 70 per cent of my predictions.
It started as a bit of innocent fun, with the ongoing soccer prediction meta game that Reddit’s soccer subreddit has going on.
But the more I played that game, and the more I was rewarded for being right, the more I was reminded of a more sinister time in my life as a football fan.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH GAMBLING
There was a time in my life after NS when I dabbled in football betting.
It started with conversations I had with a friend over a football game on PlayStation. Those conversations, as they usually do, involved predictions on who would win or lose.
I think this was during the group stages of one of the World Cups, but my friend told me that he would place a bet for fun, based on what I thought.
Long story short, I thought that since he was already going to be placing that bet, I would tag along with a cheeky bet of my own. It seemed like harmless fun at the time, after all.
We ended up winning that time. And that was the impetus I needed to make another prediction with the upcoming games.
Funny thing is, it didn’t work out that next time we placed bets. Nor did it with the other games.
The love of money had overtaken my love for the sport.
That World Cup, I think I wound up losing about $200 in a span of a few days. And that doesn’t seem like much in real terms right now, but it was a lot to me then.
But putting monetary value aside, I now consider that embarrassing episode a priceless — and even cheap — lesson to learn that gambling is dangerous, deceptive and simply does not pay.
Because even with my statistics and knowledge, I wasn’t in control.
I remember I wasn’t even watching anymore for the love of the game — I was watching just to see if I had won.
The love of money had overtaken my love for the sport.
I wanted the thrill, not of witnessing legendary golazos or crazy comeback stories, but winning some quick cash for myself.
After I paid my friend the $200 odd dollars I owed him, I felt ashamed that I had taken part in something I didn’t think I was susceptible to or would have liked. I should have known better about gambling — this was basic stuff!
Never again, I swore to myself.
And yet, through the years, I would see my penchant for games of chance rear its head every now and then.
It happened with League of Legends, where I failed to see I had fallen prey to the sunk cost fallacy.
Surely the next pull would be it!
And as recently as last night, I found traces of this cursed desire in my system as I witnessed Italy narrowly beat Spain to a place in the final.
I had called the result.
During the Round of 16 I had told a friend my prediction for the final would be Italy versus England (since this article would go live by 7/7, we’ll see if I was right about the Three Lions).
Yes, I had predicted the Gli Azzurri would pip La Roja to the spot in the final, even though the talismanic Spinazzola had been ruled out for the rest of the tournament to an Achilles injury.
I just knew Spain’s strikers weren’t going to be clinical enough to make the difference — and I had a feeling.
I wondered for a moment if I was wrong when Morata slotted the equaliser past Donnarumma in normal time.
But it eventually went to penalties, and my doubts about Spanish firepower were proven right when Morata missed Spain’s decisive spot kick, right before Jorginho put his away to book Italy’s spot in the final.
It was an amazing game of football, from two very technically competent sides with starkly different styles of play.
But just as much as I enjoyed the visual spectacle, I felt something else rising in my heart.
It was a satisfaction that I had been proven right. I knew better. It was a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous pride because I knew immediately where that line of thought was going.
Two more games. England versus Denmark. Then, as I predict, England versus Italy on Sunday/Monday (and no, I don’t believe the Three Lions are going to bring anything home this time either).
Plainly speaking, I saw two more games to make a quick profit because of how smart I think I am.
I hope that gives you a sufficient picture of the problem I faced, and what others might be facing this tournament.
It’s why I’m writing this article: to put my stupid idea to death, even though it means baring my weakness to the world, and to warn others to be careful.
Certainly, you will not find a verse in the Bible that explicitly condemns gambling or betting, but you will find plenty that tell us to stay away from the love of money and to be wary of quick gains.
Anyway, now that I’ve got this off my chest, I’ll have a gambling-free Euro 2020, thank you very much!
Also, please feel free to congratulate (or laugh at me) on the Thir.st Telegram channel this weekend about the results.
Win or lose, let’s all enjoy some clean games of awesome football!
Featured image sourced from Justin Tallis / Pool Photo via AP
- On what occasions has pride been dangerous for you?
- Can you identify with the temptation to gamble – on football or anything else for that matter?
- How can you guard against such desires?