There are football fans, and then there are Slaven Nikolic and Tabish Aleemullah.
The Westmead Hospital doctors could send a heart monitor off the charts when their teams, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC, go head-to-head in the European Champions League final on Sunday morning.
The match will draw around 380 million viewers worldwide, while the battle continues at Westmead Hospital to determine who the keener fan is.
Tabish reckons he is the more passionate supporter, considering he spends most of his limited free time writing articles and producing a podcast about Liverpool.
Slaven, however, has named his sons after two ‘Spurs’ legends – Luka (Modric) and Rafael (van der Vaart).
“I started supporting Tottenham when I was a bartender at university back in the mid-2000s,” he explained.
“At the time they had this player with dreadlocks, Edgar Davids, who looked like a Dutch ‘Predator’ tearing it up in the midfield. I ended up watching a lot of their games and became a fan.”
Unlike many Liverpool supporters, Tabish was not alive for the club’s glory days in the 70s and 80s. Instead he was won over by up-and-coming English superstar Michael Owen in the late 90s.
“I actually watched Liverpool beat Spurs at Anfield in 2017,” Tabish said.
“It was a really important game in the season and I remember the atmosphere was like one of those famous European nights the older fans talk about. It was a really special experience and I hope this weekend will be another.”
The keen fans have swapped shifts and rearranged study sessions to make sure they don’t miss the big final, which kicks off at 5am Sydney time on Sunday, June 2.
While they both joke that football comes first in life, their passion for the beautiful game has had benefits at work.
When Tabish studied a medical elective in the UK, his love of English football helped him bond with his surgical supervisors and bantering about the weekend’s results helped deal with the stressful hospital environment.
He and Slaven agree that football can also be a great icebreaker in the hospital, and it’ll often be one of the first things they ask if a patient has a British accent.
“When I was a physiotherapist I had a patient in hospital who was a Tottenham fan, which was cool because you don’t meet many in Australia,” Slaven said.
“He would be my first patient in the morning and we’d watch the end of matches together before doing the exercises. He taught me a lot about the history of the club, so it was a great way for us to connect and to motivate him.”