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The Fear of Football?
The World Cup commences later this month in Russia and I was intrigued to read an article which talked of Pedaspheraphobia: Peda (foot) - Sphera (ball) - Phobia (fear of).
This tongue in cheek article claimed that Chinese doctors have identified the human gene that causes Pedaspheraphobia; it is found in the X chromosome and largely explains why women are more likely to be sufferers than men, due to the fact that they are XX and not XY.
Dr Chang of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology, reports that: symptoms of Pedaspheraphobia include vertigo and nausea whenever watching sport. Apparently, football on television is particularly likely to set off adverse reactions. However, the doctor admitted that other sports could cause the same symptoms. Physical symptoms are a rash on the neck and torso, often triggered by match commentary. In severe cases the patient suffers from palpitations. There is also a tendency towards accompanying irrational behaviour such as turning off the television and hiding the remote control.
The NHS website definition of a phobia is: “an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.” And I wonder, before reading any further, how many phobias you could name? I immediately thought of three: ‘Claustrophobia’ (fear of enclosed spaces) and ‘Agoraphobia’ (fear of wide open spaces) and ‘Arachnophobia’ (fear of spiders). You may well have thought of the same three but, in fact, there are so many more.
There are those who suffer “dendro-phobia”, “caligynephobia” or “geniophobia” (those afraid of trees, beautiful women and chins) may strike you as most peculiar. Yet, a number of the phobias will seem to most people to be far from irrational. “Hoplophobia”, “hydrophobophobia”, “taphephobia”, “helmintho-phobia” and “medomalacuphobia” - respectively, the fear of weapons, rabies, being buried alive, suffering an infestation of worms, and unexpected impotence - all seem rather reasonable things to fear.
Although we are often intrigued by phobia stories, and find the names of the more obscure funny in themselves, we should be careful not to poke fun at those who are so afflicted by a genuine medical condition. Pedaspheraphobia does not exist; it is not to my knowledge a genuine medical condition. Personally speaking, I am looking forward to the World Cup but I understand that there will be those who are not. Some will just be ambivalent about it but others will really dislike it, and some of them will be able to articulate their objections (should we be supporting Russia at this time? Why would fans pay so much money to watch a load of multi-millionaires running around a field after a ball? Why do people care so much about a silly game when there are more important things happening in the world?). Those who think and feel this way should not be labelled as ‘phobes’ just because they don’t fit into the majority or perceived way of thinking.
The logic of all this is that, on a purely linguistic level, we should not misuse the medical term ‘phobia’ to demonize those who think rationally and differently. So, to critique Islam, for example, is not Islamophobia (though it could be anti-Islamist), and to disagree with same sex marriage following the same logic, is not homophobic!
It seems to me that we need to rediscover Christian tolerance that allows dissenting voices to be heard and not misuse ‘phobias’ and ‘-isms’ as a weapon to close down all debate.
Revd David Little
The Fear of Football?