My friends tend to find this the most surprising aspect of me: I’m actually a football fan. Yep, I follow the scores and the team news and have been to quite a few football games (only when local, admittedly, but I’m not spending large sums of money on it). It’s a subject that I quite like to talk about, and be knowledgeable about. But why?
Why would I be football fan? I’m a liberal, a nerd, a pale and distinctly unfit individual who sees no real point to sport in general. Football should represent the antithesis of who I am, surely. And then there are the many, many problems with the sport: this is the sport where the players earn thousands, if not millions more, than people like heart surgeons who actually perform difficult and important services. This is the sport where the players become the role models of young boys despite being infamously poorly educated and prone to things like, for example, biting other players. This is the sport where money, which we kept being told is in short supply nowadays, is thrown in its millions into making a football player change shirts and play somewhere else. And let’s not forget the football culture, the racist, xenophobic and homophobic chants that emanate from the crowds, the countless riots over the years, the deaths that football fans have inflicted on each other. There are places where supporting the wrong football team could get you hurt. And for what? Paying an insane amount of money to see a bunch of men kick a ball about for ninety minutes. It’s awful. But I still like it.
The point is that, if you can separate yourself from the terrible footballing culture and just pay attention to it as a pastime, being a football fan can actually be quite rewarding in a number of ways. First and foremost, it provides a foothold into most social situations. I am a socially-awkward person, and starting conversations with people was always a problem I had. But among teenage boys the subject of football is universal and is constantly giving you new things to talk about, and since taking football more seriously I have found navigating social situations to be much simpler as I have an instant topic of conversation to bring up. It also gives you a little thing to look forward to when times are bad, a little glimmer of tension and excitement at the weekends that you can think about while you’re suffering through the week. Football is a distraction, but that’s the point. It provides me with something to think and talk about other than the big things that dominate my life, like school and classical guitar playing and so on. Physically, it has done nothing for me; mentally, it’s had a big and positive impact.
So, to all those smart people out there who sneer at football supporters for being morons (I know you exist, one of you is my best friend), I say that you aren’t considering the wider, positive impacts of football culture and how it is, in fact, compatible with a life of being thoughtful and cultural. Football already has many stereotypes: let’s end the one about stupid, thuggish football fans, OK?
Oh, and in case you were wondering…