It’s about the beau­ti­ful game, not glory

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THE phrase “glory hunter” is a well used deroga­tory term in sport­ing cir­cles, es­pe­cially among dot­ing foot­ball fans, where brag­ging rights are ev­ery­thing. For those who are not too fa­mil­iar with the con­cept, glory hun­ters can be roughly de­scribed as fans who align them­selves with a par­tic­u­lar club only be­cause they are win­ning and suc­cess­ful.

The pen­chant to “back the win­ning horse”, if you like, sees this so-called fan jump­ing ship when the go­ing gets tough and sup­port­ing an­other club that is on a roll. In sim­ple terms, loy­alty is not a con­sid­er­a­tion for these fickle fans.

Swop­ping al­le­giances has be­come quite com­mon among lo­cal sup­port­ers of English foot­ball and it seems to hap­pen with greater reg­u­lar­ity than Ney­mar div­ing in the penalty box.

The rise of teams like Chelsea and Manch­ester City over the past decade or so has given more trac­tion to glory hunt­ing.

Roll back the clock to 2003. Rus­sian bil­lion­aire Ro­man Abramovich, with some pocket change, de­cided to buy un­der­achiev­ers Chelsea. Through Abramovich’s in­jec­tion of cash, the club be­gan to bag sil­ver­ware, with a younger Jose Mour­inho at the helm.

In no time, thou­sands of new Blues fans were born. Sen­ti­ments such as “My team won the league” was com­mon fod­der. What do you mean “your team” ex­actly?

In 2008, Sheikh Man­sour pur­chased City for an as­tro­nom­i­cal amount and in­jected in­sane sums of cash to make the club suc­cess­ful. The team went on to be­come cham­pi­ons of Eng­land and even greater ri­vals to Manch­ester United and Chelsea’s supremacy.

Sud­denly hun­dreds of City fans be­gan to pop out of the wood­work. Peo­ple who have the most min­i­mal of knowl­edge of the club’s his­tory be­came die-hard sup­port­ers. Who are they kid­ding?

The same thing hap­pened when min­nows Le­ices­ter City won the ti­tle a cou­ple of sea­sons ago, al­beit on a smaller scale.

Why is this the case, es­pe­cially in foot­ball? What do you ac­tu­ally stand to lose or gain by back­ing the right team? How about be­ing neu­tral and sim­ply en­joy­ing the “beau­ti­ful game”?

In say­ing this, I re­spect all true, loyal fans who con­tin­ued to sup­port their re­spec­tive clubs even when the days were dark and the tro­phy cab­i­net bare.

Ad­mirable are the long-suf­fer­ing sup­port­ers of Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur and Liver­pool. The last time Liver­pool won the league ti­tle, the Na­tional Party was still in power in South Africa. Since then, one lucky Cham­pi­ons League win has been their only ma­jor suc­cess.

How­ever, this is not to rub salt into the wounds of Reds fans, it is a com­pli­ment to you guys for stick­ing with your team through thick and thin (mostly thin). Of course, there were those Liver­pool fans who have since de­cided to de­fect to the likes of Chelsea and City (sigh).

I write this to urge all foot­ball fans to think deeply about why they sup­port the teams they back. The sad re­al­ity is that most lo­cal English foot­ball fans were not born in Manch­ester, for ex­am­ple, let alone Eng­land or Europe. Nor do we have rel­a­tives who were born or live there and most of us will never set foot in that coun­try.

At the end of the day, the teams peo­ple align them­selves with is their choice, but does the ri­valry be­tween sup­porter groups here in South Africa have to be as fiery and in­tense as those in Eng­land, thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away.

To the lo­cal glory hun­ters I’d like to say, when a young­ster born in Manch­ester, for ex­am­ple, throws in his lot with the red or blue half of the city, it’s usu­ally for a life­time.

Take a look at our own Orlando Pi­rates and Kaizer Chiefs – you hardly ever hear of their re­spec­tive fans cross­ing the floor.

On the field, Chelsea and Liver­pool were in­volved in a pul­sat­ing draw over the week­end while United seem to be well and truly on the ropes.

And Jose Mour­inho seems to be in the midst of an­other third-sea­son syn­drome (his team was thumped 3-1 by West Ham at the week­end). My guess is that he won’t see Christ­mas wear­ing United’s colours.

The club presently is a sink­ing ship and there seems to be no life­sav­ing jack­ets avail­able.

In clos­ing, well done to the Boks, Lewis Hamil­ton and Cape Town City on win­ning the MTN 8 fi­nal. Bet­ter luck next time to the Sharks.

PIC­TURE: EPA/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Liver­pool fans in full voice ahead of their re­cent match against Le­ices­ter.

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