Originally published on my personal blog on July 22nd 2011.
In football, you will do well to find a fan who does not support a club.
They are a rare breed – supporting a club is just natural for a football fan, especially if you grow up with the game.
The term ‘support’, in the context of football, is used very loosely in the modern game – if you never go to the games, don’t watch the games on television, rarely check for the results and don’t have a clue who half the players are, are you really supporting them? – but it’s fair to say that most people have a club to which they are attached to, be it casually or in a marital-esque situation.
Of course, this is not some sort of attack on anyone who does support a football club. I have a lot of respect for anyone who follows their team every season, without fail, be it home and away, or just home games, or the much-maligned ‘armchair fan’. For what it’s worth – just because you are in attendance at more games doesn’t make you a better fan, but that’s another argument altogether.
I have the utmost respect – and possibly pity – for anyone who pays mass sums of money to go and see their team every or most week(s), whether they be a fan of non-league football or Premier League football; it doesn’t matter, it’s incredible dedication and loyalty (which is then exploited by the football club – again, another argument altogether).
It’s the money that is the biggest issue for me, and many fans too. I used to ‘support’ a football club but, as prices soared, I just couldn’t afford it anymore. Admittedly, this was a top Premier League club, so I could just go to see my local side, who are much further down the football pyramid and would therefore hold cheaper ticket prices, right?
Well, not exactly, unless you class £16 for a League 2 game as ‘cheap’, which I don’t. The club will say it’s all relative, both in comparison with other football clubs and other entertainment industries (football is seen as a day out, after all). That doesn’t make it right – ‘they do it so we’ll do it too’ – but football clubs are businesses now. I understand that, but I don’t accept it, and I’m not paying sixteen pounds for a game of football that will inevitably be dire and to watch a team who are, quite frankly, piss-poor – and who will be playing in the Blue Square Premier next season (this isn’t my fault, I hasten to add).
Football fan culture is always something that has mystified me. The partisan nature, the tinted-spectacles, the tribalism – I just can’t comprehend it. Yes, I have some blinkered views – I can’t stand Cristiano Ronaldo and therefore he will never be as good as Lionel Messi – but I just can’t understand the pure hatred that some fans feel for other fans and clubs.
Kids who grow up in Manchester United-supporting households will automatically hate Liverpool and the ‘other side’ of Manchester. Those kids don’t actually know why they hate Liverpool, they just do. I understand it so some extent because, yes, football would be quite boring without the rivalry. But I just can’t understand the hatred that some feel for others and I can’t stand the bias views from the majority of fans.
Obviously, there are teams that I enjoy to watch and would happily pay for the odd match throughout a season. I suppose, in a very loose sense, I am a ‘fan’ of Owen Coyle’s Bolton because they, in one game of football, can encapsulate both styles of the sport – the intricate but penetrating passing style and the long hoof up field. Last season, like many others, I enjoyed watching Napoli in Serie A, and Borrussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, for different reasons.
In September I’ll be moving to Sunderland to go to university up there and, hopefully, I’ll be plodding along to the Stadium of Light. I might even trek across to Newcastle and see the Magpies in action. As the prices will probably be obscene, I’ll go to watch some youth or reserve team football. I’m sure I’ll love it.
But the point is, I just don’t feel like I really support a football club anymore. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m now watching a lot more football and so come across more teams that I like or just because I’m becoming slightly disillusioned with the game as a whole. For whatever reason, the attachment that was once there just isn’t anymore.
So who did I ‘support’ in the first place? Manchester United. Why did I support them? Because they were on television when I was younger and I liked how they played, and everyone else supported them. Does that make me a ‘glory supporter’? Probably.
But now I’m not really a supporter at all – I’m just a fan of football. And I kind of like it…