The loneliness of the football fanIt is easy to continue to support a team if they continue to win trophies.
There is this man I know. I will call him K. K and I got talking about football and I asked him which Premier League team he supported. He said he was a Chelsea fan although he used to be an Arsenal one. “These days Arsenal makes me mad,” he added with hardly comprehensible indignation. I inwardly chuckled but said nothing. After a while I said that I had never come across a fan who had switched his team. “You have now,” he replied with disdain.
That left me wondering about him. K must have become a Chelsea fan when they were a dominant force in the mid-noughties after Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bankrolled the team’s success. Or maybe it was a little later when his older team Arsenal started their slide from the late noughties onwards. He wanted to support a winner but not Manchester United, the most dominant force in English football between the early 1990s and early 2010s, because. Well because, that was too obvious a team to pick wasn’t it? He had supported Arsenal because they challenged the serial winner in the first place.
So why does a football fan support one Premier League team rather than another? In England the answer to a large extent would be because it is the local club. But elsewhere there probably are a variety of reasons.
Maybe they were the winning team when one first started watching the game. Maybe they when one first started watching the game had enough in them to challenge the big boys. Maybe one is just a sucker for underdogs. Maybe they were the team one was introduced to early on by a dear one. Maybe that was the team one’s circle supported and was easier to make conversation about. Maybe they were the team whose style playing, or otherwise, one liked. Maybe one just liked the manager for his no nonsense style, his sartorial sense, his antics on the touchline, his looks or whatever. Maybe they were the team that had an attractive player, whether in looks or playing style, and you fell for the team because of him. There could so many more.
It is easy to continue to support a team if they continue to win trophies. We all love winners, after all. Besides the pure pleasure of enjoying the success, one gets bragging rights with one’s friends, one gets a vicarious thrill, and one gets a sense of comfort when other things may not be going one’s way. One feels one has a pretty girl or a handsome guy by one’s side and is the envy of others.
But then even success gets boring after a while. On the other hand if one’s team’s fortune is in a steady decline it becomes challenging and in perverse sense enjoyable too. One does not want to just abandon the team and jump ship because over time one has expended time, energy and emotions for the team. One has developed an affinity for the team, one identifies with the team. Of course one could always go out with a prettier girl or a better looking guy. But what about all the time you spent with the earlier one? In football the players change, the managers change and even the owners change but the fan remains.
Now the question that arises is how much of the pain can one bear. One had expected so much from one’s team but every year one gets disappointed. One can’t take it anymore. One wants to wash one’s hands of the team but it’s not so easy. One is in a lonely place. Why is the football so important if it is so much trouble? Maybe the famous Liverpool manager Bill Shankly had something when he said, “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you it is much more serious than that.”
That brings me to K. I don’t want to know why he abandoned Arsenal. I'd rather contemplate.