Tuesday, 26 August 2008

It's only a game

So the new football season has started. I wouldn’t normally care, but last season I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I joined in the Fantasy Football shenanigans and entered my own team. To my horror, I found that I actually really enjoyed it. There’s something about trying to second guess what’s going to happen in games and gloating over mates when you manage to move ahead of them in the league. By sheer luck (although I told everyone it was sheer skill) my team actually managed to do quite well and after leading for quite some time, I came first in my work league and fairly well in my friends league. This pissed off a lot of people, which is my specialty I’m told, so it was to be expected really.

I used to be a big football fan when I was younger. The onset of puberty and my fascination with 22 hunky men in shorts running around a field was no co-incidence. I seriously believed that I was destined to marry Ryan Giggs. At the age of 11, the first ever Valentine’s card I ever sent was to him. The heartbreak and disappointment when J17 published pictures of him holding up sacks and sacks of similar cards from like-minded 11 year old girls was unbearable. It still hurts a little now just thinking of it. So began my support of the mighty Man U, and a crazy obsession that went as far as spending all my pocket money on football magazines like Match and FourFourTwo, and religiously recording Match of the Day. Not because I was out partying and I would miss it. I was 12 and had the most over-protective parents in the world. Going out into the garden after Neighbours wasn’t allowed. No, I would watch it on Saturday night, whilst recording it so that I could watch it over and over again throughout the week. I was a very dull child with obsessive tendencies.

Nowadays, I think one of the most interesting things about football is finding out which teams people support and why. It’s amazing how someone can be so obsessive about such a simple sport. I don’t like football, but I love the passion and the dedication it invokes in people. Relationships can come and go, people change and move on, but which team you support rarely leaves you. Sure, sometimes, when you’re in your fickle teens and trying to figure out who you are, some restless people may switch sides, but generally, once you’ve moved into secondary school, your team is your team for life. I have a great respect for people who have a devotion to their local team, no matter how rubbish and useless they are. I have a friend who’s a season ticket holder for Wycombe Wanderers. They’re never going to do amazing things in football, but his house is still full of Wycombe fridge magnets and the team calendar with the season’s fixtures. A friend at work used to play me the commentary from old York FC matches from the 50s when they actually used to win some games. The delight in his face when they scored made me laugh so much. More interestingly, a friend from overseas came to the UK many moons ago on a family holiday when he was just a tiny boy in shorts. His father wanted to buy them all a souvenir and so bought him and each of his 3 brothers a football scarf – a different one from a different team each. From that day on, he’s been a devout Nottingham Forest supporter. Another friend recently arrived in the UK from the shores of Kangaroo Land wondering what team to support. He wanted to support a London team so that he could go to as many games as possible. Did he choose Chelsea? Arsenal? Even Fulham or Crystal Palace? Nope, he went for Dagenham and Redbridge. He wanted a more interesting team where he could be sure that the supporters in the stands were there for the love of the team and out of passion for the game, rather than a corporate fat cat who was having a day out on company expenses. I admire his inspired choice. However, I’m not sure whether I will still be as impressed when I’m in the Dagenham grounds. Yes, I’ve decided to pop my football cherry at a Daggers game and am venturing out to the middle of nowhere to watch overgrown men get emotional about a muddy ball being kicked about in the middle of a freezing cold field. I can’t wait.


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