About a decade ago Thailand caught football fever and nothing has ever been the same here. Almost every Thai you talk to these days follows football. The guys down the pub, women at work, they all have their favorite team and favorite player. Strangely, though, that team seems to be Manchester United, and David Beckham is the only player they know. This is a typical conversation you’ve probably had with a taxi driver.

“Where you come from?”

“I’m from England.”

“Ah! Manchester United numbah one.”

Or

“Oh. You know Tony Beckham? He numbah one.”

It’s not like the taxi driver is even from sophisticated Bangkok. He’s บาคาร่า from Buri Somewhere, but he sure knows more about football and footballers than I ever will.

I’m going to be a heretic here and tell you the truth. Football is about the last thing on earth I’m interested in. I’m into solitary sports — like swimming (bet you thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you? Naughty, naughty.)

Yet there is no getting away from it. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world football is the number one topic of conversation. You can be five hundred miles up the Amazon River and an Indian will pop his head out of the jungle and ask, “You like Manchester United?” And if you say “No” he will probably spear you to death.

Despite this, you have to wonder how much some of these ‘fans’ really know about football. They all seem to ask about ManU, but I’ve never had anyone outside Australia ask me how I like the team from, say, Footscray. Heck! Come to think of it, I’ve never had anyone outside Melbourne, the home of Australian Rules, ask me about Footscray, or Aussie Rules football either for that matter.