A sporting chance

By Ulrica Marshall

FIRSt there was the unforgettable Euro football, then the racing at Ascot and now tennis at Wimbledon.

With so much sport in the airwaves, I feel positively exhausted and I haven’t even been in the vicinity of a sports stadium, let alone put my trainers on. My right arm appears to have had a solid workout, though, watching events unfold with bated breath from the comfort of my sofa or local bar. 

Armed with lashings of strawberries and cream and the obligatory Champagne, beer or Pimm’s, there really is little better than watching these finely tuned men and women slog it out for our entertainment. As back seat drivers, millions of viewers worldwide bemoan any error like a personal betrayal or celebrate as if winning the lottery on a point scored. A penalty missed could lead to a sporting guru being ostracised for the longest time.    

But if you thought competition was stiff at these events, it is not a patch on the fervour of that seen at some of the tennis courts and golf courses around Mallorca. Call it the Nadal effect, or what you will, but the island is full of budding world champions. Or so it would seem. 

Because for many expats, sport is life rather than an occasional pastime or means of keeping fit. Granted, the weather is more benevolent here for outdoorsy opportunities than in its Northern counterparts and, with national football teams and Tour de France cyclists using Spain as their training ground, there are few valid excuses not to partake. 

Still, be afraid – be very afraid – when your opponent declares that your forthcoming game is a friendly one or that they are a bit rusty; they are only covering their bases should they be having an off day. Their handicap is probably near par and they will fight nail and tooth to win. As Dale Earnhardt, the US race car driver, once said: “Second place is just the first place loser.” 

The work-life balance for most expats in Spain tends to favour life; even fully-functional tycoons have their many minions scurrying around to ease the work load. So, it follows that we have an inordinate amount of time to spend on our hobbies – as they were once called – and an even more abundant amount of time to wallow over lost games and training for victories. 

Even the gyms are competitive, with the iron-pumping ratio off the charts and in-house Mr and Mrs Gym contests to flex your rippling muscles for. Baggy t-shirts and shorts are, of course, outlawed by the fashion police and Lycra – ideally Stella McCartney for Adidas – rules the roost. First place is, after all, not available to all at the same time and, if you are going to lose, best look your best doing so. 

In fact, the only way to truly ensure that you’re not racing straight for loser abyss is to join me from the passive comfort of the sofa or local bar. Here you have the opportunity to pick and choose the winning player or team as you go along; slyly changing sides as the match progresses, armed with a handbag full of flags from different countries. Anyone for another Pimm’s?

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