The Beautiful Game, as Told by a Noob

I now get football. But also, I do not get football.

Ria Tagulinao
7 min readJan 25


My only photos from the Argentina-France final watch party

“So what’s your team?”, Ena asked me. She knew I wasn’t a football fan, so I readily admitted that I didn’t know. Argentina? Because you know, Messi, GOAT, the bandwagon. But I told her there was this cute French guy I’d met on vacation a few years ago, which was clearly enough reason for me to also root for France. (I wore a denim-colored top so I could swing both ways.)

I wasn’t completely in the dark about football when I walked into the hotel room, bearing lemons and a pack of salt to pair with the tequila they had — a token for letting me crash their World Cup final watch party.

For one, I knew France was the standing World Cup champion because of my job in 2018. I was working for an international brand then, handling the HORECA (Hotels, Restaurants, and Cafes) space. A month shy of the start of the season, bar owners approached us for support for game viewings: matching personalized jerseys for the whole staff, hand-held country flags for every match, mini football balls as table centerpieces. One hotel even wanted us to mount a small indoor football pitch! In my head, I was like, really? All this work for a league?

Throw it back eight years earlier when I first heard of this football player called Lionel Messi. My ex was obsessed with him. Striped blue and white jersey, posters, the whole shebang. I vaguely remember her justifying that Messi was better than this other guy Ronaldo. I couldn’t relate, nor did it register that her hype was due to the World Cup season that year.

So I knew of FIFA, Argentina, and Messi. While waiting for the final to start, Ena filled me in on other key information. Kylian Mbappé, she said, is the star player of France. A lot younger than Messi, predicted to be one of the GOATs of the sport.

“So they’re like the Verstappen and Hamilton of football!”, I answered.

(I can feel certain Formula 1 fans mentally burning me at the stake.)

When she wasn’t parsing the game, cursing, and reacting like any true football fan would, Ena answered my football 101 questions: A match runs for 90 minutes without the clock ever stopping. Extra time is added to make up for the time…



Ria Tagulinao

Fun-sized Filipina Writer | To stay up-to-date with my work, here's my Sunday newsletter: