Richard Keegan, with wife Sarah and baby Charlie, is an associate professor in sport and exercise psychology, and thinks he knows why we flock to elite sport.  Photo by: Jamila Toderas

Richard Keegan, with wife Sarah and baby Charlie, is an associate professor in sport and exercise psychology, and thinks he knows why we flock to elite sport. Photo by: Jamila Toderas

Were you up early cheering the Socceroos on? Are you committed enough to back it up for the two 2am starts to follow? If the answer is yes, you may not be a football fanatic, just trying to fit in, according to a Canberra sports psychologist.

The University of Canberra's Richard Keegan said the attraction of watching men you've never met 15,000 kilometres away in the dead of the night – often alone on the couch – ironically has lots to do with connecting with others.

"First up, we watch in order to be able to participate in the 'water cooler' conversation," Dr Keegan said.

''Your normal gang who you see each day, you want something to talk about.''

The English academic said the second key attraction is the reward of being able to empathise with athletes in the middle of unique and personal challenges during the month-long football showpiece.

"I'm not afraid to admit welling up a bit when I see people achieve their dreams," Associate Professor Keegan said.

And as enjoyable as the post-match analysis with friends is, there's something powerful about the instant sharing of the glory and heartbreak inherent in sport.  

"'Did you SEE THAT?' no longer has to be shouted directly into your mate's ear against the background noise, but it can be thrown out into the echo chamber of social media and rapidly echoed, amplified and analysed right in front of you," he said.

"As a motivation researcher, the need to feel connected and to relate to others is meant to be one of three primary drivers (once the needs for food, drink and safety have been met)."

But as universal as the human desire for connection can be, fans' experience of football can be greatly affected by attitude, regardless of who is kicking the winners.

Arriving from the University of Lincoln 18 months ago, Dr Keegan said his experience of Australians suggested the English would be more affected as their team played.

 "The England games come with this incredible anxiety and tension, and it can be quite difficult, because it's something that we feel we should be good at.

"It ends up becoming almost self-torture.

"Over here, if Australia do well, it's a great bonus."

Which, being in the draw of death, seems to be the best way to look it.  

Australia plays the Netherlands from 2am on June 19, and Spain at the same time on June 24. 

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