Without doing full scale interviews with fans I thought it might be interesting to convey reasons I have heard from folk as to why they visit the local game over the years. It is probably more an article I think about watching live football with the pertinent fact being that where we live deems that the ‘live’ match is part-time football… but there are touches of everything here. If you formally ask fans this sort of question you get studied, sometime artificial answers in reply to some questions. Others would look at you as if you had asked ‘Why do you breathe?’ …..and in some respects this article could maybe stop here. I have a sympathy with this – it shouldn’t be that scientific. Pink Floyd, on the recording of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ were conscious of this so they did an exercise instead. Holding up cards with a word on them they asked roadies, office and recording staff etc…what was the first thing that came into their heads. Interestingly they didn’t include Paul McCartney’s answers who was in the next studio for the above ‘studied’ reason though to be fair to him he probably had a bit more media savvy than everyone else even forty – five years ago. Make it sound like a chat and you get the real fan.
Anyway, I say ‘visit’ as if it’s a trip to the doctor. Wrong word you might agree as probably like myself, we all fit life in around the next match. Don’t we? I have heard quite a range of retorts in my time so what I have done is (and excuse the self- indulgence) rather than put down everything is record answers that to a greater or lesser degree I have some resonance with. I will throw in my own tuppence worth in italics on top for what it’s worth. Try it yourself with some of the answers just for the exercise. I learned a few things about myself and my attitude to the game.
Before we start it is worth putting up a few dubious though great lines I’ve heard.
“I’m retired and life’s a ball, especially since the wife left me. I worry that I shouldn’t lose my relationship with misery completely.”
“Jesus, if I didn’t watch them on a Saturday I’d kill her, I really would. She doesn’t seem so bad when I get back after the match”.
So it is clear negative marital attitudes play their part but probably best if I say nothing here. The grace of God and all that! In no particular order then let’s see what we identify with. The one at the end probably deserves to be there though and no comment is necessary.
“It’s my local team – end of”.
Yep. In some ways the big Daddy of them all. It is the big Daddy because this is the root of it all. When things go wrong with your team this is your handrail and torch in the darkness. ‘Local team’ denotes honesty from oneself and to oneself. It isn’t so much a thing with country, but very much is with club in a lot of cases. Look at it another way. If you follow a team that isn’t your local team and especially if it is a glamour team you are very much on thinner ice. There is an honest to goodness respect for those who follow their local team, whatever that level is. I generally find I have more time for those that follow their local team to those that don’t. And I mean as people, not fans.
“It’s not why I started, but I like having a go at the Sky types”.
Possibly more of a thing in Ireland but not necessarily. This definitely has a link to what is above. This isn’t about folk who follow teams in England as with the greatest will in the world when you are young you absorb and English football is wall to wall. We all have English teams we follow to some degree or another. Media exposure fifty years ago on English teams was pro rata as well. It’s more about those who surf across the wave of TV football and hold larger than necessary negative attitudes towards the local game. It’s simply part time football in a small country. The same thinking internationally can apply to the two Irish international sides. Some amplified defensive behaviour there for whatever reason. It’s a relevant point none the less. Still I have to go with this. Back to a music theme. I would rather chat to someone who has ‘Ziggy Stardust’ rather than ‘Best of David Bowie’ if you follow me.
“It’s cheap and handy”.
Not very exciting but it is relevant. It’s £11 at the most to pay in locally and that is pretty good whatever way you look at it for an afternoon’s entertainment these days. That is if you are of the view that football is entertainment or are we back to the previous paragraphs. Entertainment is by the bye for many when it comes to their team as for most fans suffering is what they are paying for when you follow any side. It might be cold and the game might be poor sometimes, but the film might be rubbish and the couple in front kept rattling their crisp packet if you generalise this as an activity. For me, I can make use of most of a Saturday and still get a match in so ‘handy’ is something I can go along with here.
“Players play for the love of the game rather than money”
I know what is meant here and some would say that is less and less the case but it is a valid point. Personally I relate more on a macro level insofar as the game is the game and not a corporate brand as the Premiership is. In England some argue that the frame of the game is starting to singe at the edges. It can be seen at the moment at West Ham perhaps most vividly but other things ring the warning bell. Song sheets at Old Trafford, the plunge of the England international side and the lack of a young generation at Premiership grounds should be alerting the more long – sighted. Be you a fan or be you a consumer? It might not be long before we hear the words of the ‘Talking Heads’ David Byrne- “how did I get here?”
“I like live sport”
Again pretty self- explanatory. It is worth considering though over the course of the last forty odd years. TV football is everywhere today. It wasn’t loads of years ago and many today think that if you want to see a football game you turn the TV on. Not worth going into TV v Live debate here in detail but think about it.
“It gives me memories “.
Again, brutally simple but easily forgotten. How much of our lives do we put into acquiring them? Like most of life, football can be grim but don’t we always only remember the good times? Good times in football come in so many ways and as fans our heads are sponges for this sort of thing. The good times are pretty intense in football. It gives immediate and spontaneous joy and also deep and long lasting satisfaction. Starting to sound like an advertisement this for goodness knows. Moving on.
“It has become a habit and it gets me out of the house. It’s my time in the week for me and to catch up with the mates”.
Life coaches startle with a jolt all around! So a lot of this is the blindingly obvious but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this sort of stuff. We all know plenty who fit the match around the pint and that may depend on the team you watch but social glue is one of the most positive substances there is. Football – a great narcotic but again we should speed on in case a urine sample is shortly required.
“Whatever else goes on I know it’s always there”
Love that. It absolutely is. You know what to expect, you know the smells, rituals, attitude and characters. You know you may feel bad at the end of it but there is a chance you’ll feel brilliant. It doesn’t care if you have forsaken it for many years, it will still always take you back.
“It gives me identity”
For sure it does. It’s the sporting version of ‘where are you from mate’ and in many cases the team you follow is a precursor to where you live. It adds colour to people and is one hell of an icebreaker socially. Especially internationally – football and music. The world’s social currencies. How many times do you start talking football with the taxi driver in some foreign field. Sometimes people will remember nothing else about you other than you followed such and such a team. You stand for something. Always better to stand for something rather than nothing.
“I like winding up my rugby mates”
I actually would consider rugby to be probably one of the best team games in the world to play in for various reasons and I don’t feel the need to wind them up but some of them certainly have their issues about football. I’m led to believe more regular people watch the game now and that should be a good thing. Decent game, but it’s not rock and roll. The game seems to house a cadre of horrendous people who see football as a social class rather than a sport. They are more concerned with how you pass a vowel rather than a ball. They transmit this issue and their class consciousness in a cowardly fashion through rugby.
Some of them have this strange mix of insecurity and the sanctimonious. I’ve come across rugby fans who like the NI team to do badly because they see rugby trying to catch up with football’s profile. That’s a fair bit of angst to carry through life. They are the only sporting fan collective I have encountered who continually feel the need to disrespect another game. So yes, I suppose they earn their scorn especially as they seem to set themselves up to know better. I know someone who has a great name for Ravenhill – ‘the Temple of the Judgemental’.
“It carries lots of Ulster character and reminds me why I like here”.
Probably best demonstrated in the website ‘Irish League Behaviour’. You need to not take yourself too seriously to enjoy this and of course for those who do this is an anathema. Or to put it another way it is not for those uncertain in their skin. Not for the ‘self – elevators’. Those that see themselves above some of what happens here. The type that has to declare loudly that they don’t watch Big Brother, or know anything about local football or politics here. Part- time football everywhere has lots of local character and by its very nature will highlight small time rather than cosmopolitan if you like. I like people to be proud of where they are from. I would go to war with them as a general rule before others.
“I like having live fans around me”
Can be a problem of course too but that depends on your positivity and outlook. The spontaneous remark and reaction can be priceless and of course crowds at a football match can provide atmospheres apart. Real fans want to give rather than take. One thing I would add here is I love the fact that you don’t get tourists at Irish League games, apart from Cup Finals etc.. I am perhaps slightly different insofar as I don’t have a huge wish for extra fans for the sake of it. That seems to bother people but I would rather have the ten good men as against one hundred pressed men attitude though that is a clumsy analogy. Perhaps the odd smaller ground if you like but I like the absolute hardcore element of the local fan in that he is there for his team and little else. The game here has few ‘lightweights’.
“All the trophies matter”
I have huge resonance with this. Perhaps the Antrim Shield has been a poorer relation but that has always been the case and not as a result of money men, suits and marketing types who know nothing about value and tradition. So everything matters because players want to win medals so that their footballing career means something. You can’t beat that.
“It gives me the same as the team I follow in England without the hassle”
Wow, interesting comment but I really hone in on this. A few of the points raised earlier I think cover this thought but I really get this. This is part – time football we watch here, but it gets a national interest in reality and on a publicity basis. It also has clubs with histories and traditions that pro rata….measure up to any of the big clubs. Part – time football in other countries would never get the exposure and coverage the Irish League does but because of our size one gets the best of both worlds. For example…the Lyon and District League does not get on Sky or part – time teams playing in France’s national Cup final. It is an interesting way of looking at it and one I hadn’t thought of.
“It’s brilliant that you are so close to the game. The kids love chatting with the players”
Indeed they do and it is good seeing that – usually at the warm -up or when they come back on at half -time. The other side not mentioned here is the verbal argy – bargy with players when the match gets heated. Some rare stuff goes on and hearing players talk during a game can be interesting. Best bits of course are when players react to the odd clever comment from the terraces. When other players on the pitch laugh at the comment it is usually hysterical.