Football is a fan’s game. It sounds obvious, but it really is.
My local club perhaps epitomise that statement. Throughout its 100 year history, the club has been from Conference to League 1 and (almost) back again, across the Atlantic Ocean and up to Old Trafford. As I’m sure you can imagine, it takes dedication, a love of the sport and true belief in your club (or in my case, a free Saturday and a dad offering me a seat at the last minute) to stick with your club through all the ups and downs and financial challenges. But they are arguably also one of the clubs most worth sticking with-achieving back-to-back promotion between 2008 and 2010, returning to Rio this summer to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of their historical match against the Brazilian national team and drawing 0-0 against Manchester United away at Old Trafford, they certainly have one of the livelier histories in the Football League.
And today was one of the highlights of my 13-year following-a typical last-game-comeback special, beating top of the league promotion chasers 2-0, and saving our own skins by avoiding relegation at the same time. But why so special?, I hear you non-football fans asking. Well, today was a rare occasion-every single fan left happy. For us, we avoided relegation, beat the team at the top of the league and ended our last home game of the season on a high. For our esteemed opponents, they still got promotion, which far outstripped the humiliation of being absolutely smashed by a team struggling for survival. For our manager, the win provided the opportunity to breathe easy for a bit and avoid the harsh criticisms of the not-too-happy fans, and for the players-well, it was an excuse for a bit of champagne!
You see, I have been frequently annoyed by the sheer stereotypical idiocy of some football fans, who let a love of their clubs give them the excuse to shout abuse at other fans (though, lets face it, if you support Plymouth Argyle there’s clearly something wrong with you), and the unnecessary verbal abuse shouted at an innocent referee, and the blatant cringe-worthy overuse of the word ‘banter’ by forty-something year old fans. However, there is an undeniably magical sense of belonging when you’ve just overcome the odds and scored two absolute corkers, are celebrating the end of the season, and have escaped relegation by the skin of your teeth. It just gets better when basically everybody in the ground is celebrating, because what I reckon is a football first has occurred-whilst we escaped relegation,the opposition has just secured promotion. There’s a beautifully ironic symmetry in two teams, one at the top and one at the bottom, celebrating the exact opposite but both equally delighted.
And for me, that’s the magic of football. Not in the routine wins of a standard, predictable team, or the routine losses of a bottom-of-the-Conference team, but the crazy unpredictableness of a fan-owned team with no money and an long-serving manager who’s taken us from the bottom to the top and back again, who breed the best players before selling them purely for the money, who lose against the teams at the bottom but break the unbeatable run of a team at the top (brilliantly, the last time these promotion chasers lost was at home against us). Supporting a football team can be heartbreaking or exhilarating, but one things for sure: it’s never boring. My club truly is a team in a million-owned by the fans, everybody talks to everybody, and every game is worth watching-we may have lost the last five, but this could be The One. And today, for once, it was.
As my dad told me years ago: you can choose many things in life, but your football team chooses you.
An Overthinking Teenager