Living in Australia guarantees a few things. They include at least one gnarly sunburn a year for those of us sporting fair skin, foreigners convinced we use the terms “shrimp on the barbie” and having to wake up at all hours of the night to watch any football tournament, no matter where in the world the football is. It is the last point I would like to think I’ve got some level of experience in now. I might not be at professional level for watching these games yet, but I’m getting there. Now as the Matildas are gearing up for the Asian Cup, I’m sure there are some newbies who’ve been one over by Sam Kerr’s backflips and haven’t yet dealt with the 3am matches quite yet. So here are the lessons I’ve learnt throughout the years.
You’ve got two options. One, get as much sleep as possible. If that means sleeping on the bus for ten minutes? Do it. Saying no to going out after 9pm the week leading up to the game? Do it. Sleeping through a lecture or two? You probably already do that, so just continue doing you. The second option, a longer approach but can be successful. Changing your sleeping habits to get your body onto a nocturnal internal body clock in preparation for the tournament weeks ahead. Takes a bit longer than option one, and perhaps more suited to the jobless or online uni students, but can achieve better results than option one if executed correctly. Whichever option you decide on, you should be aiming for minimum 9-10 hours sleep a day, just to build up an underlying amount of sleep that you can rely on for the next few weeks during the actual tournament.
It’s the day you’ve been waiting for. The game you just HAVE to watch and kick off is 3am so SLEEP BE DAMNED! You’re probably going to be excited, so even sleep beforehand will be hard. So there will be the struggle to sleep pre-game, then the missed hours for the game which will leave you with little sleep for the night and feel like an all nighter. This is where the extra sleep you got during pre-tournament preparation will come in handy, you’re going to need it. To ensure you wake up though, you’re going to need to set two alarms. One for the kick off, then another fifteen minutes after, in case you go to sleep during the national anthem or just sleep off your alarm clock. Pro-tip, if you wake up to the later and can rewind the game to the start, you can skip half time by hitting the fast forward button. Good luck for game days. I’m with you. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be a zombie on these days and likely just nod my head at anyone trying to talk to me, whilst actually dreaming of my wonderful, comfy bed or the goals I saw that morning. Don’t worry, we’ve got this. Game day is why we do sport right?
During the Games
You’ve made it, your alarm worked and you’re kinda awake, probably due to a mix of adrenaline and excitement of watching your team, possibly with some overtiredness in the mix too. Make sure to turn up the volume whilst watching the game, at least a tiny bit. Do this even if you don’t like the commentary. If you choose to forgo the volume you be more likely to fall asleep due to the eerie silence found only at 4am in the morning (trust me, experience). But if you do “just rest your eyes”, during some average defensive build up play, the commentary will wake you up if you have dozed off and something more interesting occurs. Many a times I’ve woken up to the commentator say “GOAL!!”, to catch the replay and be left wondering how the heck I fell asleep during this very important game.
It is essential for non-game days to get your sleep. If you’re an idiot like me, and tv coverage is available, during the group stage there will be limited “non-game days” available. So the first week or so will be a matter of powering through it by guts, determination and anything with sugar or caffeine to give the appearance this stage of the tournament isn’t exhausting. Pre-Tournament preparation is essential if you want to see out the group stages by watching more than just “your team”. At some point though, maybe from the start if there isn’t access to other group games, and definitely by the knockout stages, there will be the odd day without a game. They won’t come often. So when they do, here’s what you must do. You MUST SLEEP, your body will want to wake up at random hours, because you’ve just woke up at 3am the previous morning. Ignore your body. Choose to sleep. This is important. Nothing worse than being awake from 3am the day before the final, to then fall asleep within the first half an hour of the actual final. I’ve been that person. No one wants to be that person.
After the Tournament
You’ve survived. You’re friends and acquaintances probably think you’ve turned into a zombie. Your dog is probably super confused as to why you’ve suddenly stopped giving them middle of the night pats. But you’ve done it. Hopefully your team has done you proud. Hopefully you were awake to watch their games. Well done. Now grab your teddy, find a comfy place and just crash. You deserve it.