Backchat With Catboy
Our man on the radio has decided he likes football
FFootball. Just the mere mention of the word makes some people baulk. Yes, the World Cup was fantastic. Yes, it was coming home, then it wasn’t. Yes, it was a marvellous international spectacle and probably one of the best World Cups since 1966 but it’s over. It’s done. Get over it. Well, I can’t. Why? Because I loved every game. The joy, the anger, the exquisite pain at losing and the jumping out of my chair and cursing at a 65inch, electronic device.
And so, at the tender age of 46, I have decided to become a football fan. Although I want to do it properly. During the World Cup (when England played Belgium in the lacklustre final game of the group stages) I was at a party and the only free seat was next to a Liverpudlian guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of every single player on the pitch. The teams they’ve played for, their height, their performance record and how much their last three transfer fees have been.
At the same time, I’m sitting there like a speaking potato, yelling things like, “pass it… pressure… go, go go… come on lads…” It was a gossamerthin disguise and I’m sure this guy knew I was a fair weather fan. It didn’t feel good.
So my mission is to spend the forthcoming football season learning the ropes and becoming a bona fide supporter. And the good news is I’ve got two teams to follow, both in different, erm, leagues. Sheffield United are the team I automatically say I support for two reasons. Firstly, they’re the team the “real” men in my family (dad, brother, uncles) support. And secondly I like the colour red more than blue.
The second team I feel I can throw my weight behind are Southampton. I’ve always loved their jaunty badge. They play in red (bonus), their kit occasionally looks like Sheffield United’s and, most importantly, my wife is from there and is a proper fan, so she’ll gladly let me watch the games.
All I’m saying is I’m ready. I’ll be there in Barasti with my scarf, rattle and flask of Bovril when Saturday comes.
I’ve asked various “real” men in my contacts for advice on becoming a football fan. Here are the (genuine) tips I’ve received:
“Either support the team nearest to where you grew-up or become a glory-hunter and go for one of the big ones.”
“Be a hipster fan and support a team no-one else has a clue about, such as Dulwich Hamlet F.C. or Colo-Colo in Chile.”
“Play the official EPL Fantasy Football league. It’s the best way to learn about players and teams.”
“Be ready for weekend after weekend of disappointment.”
“Cram on your history. Knowing about the current game is vital but knowing about the background of teams is just as important.”
“Read the sports news. It seems like a foreign language at first.” “Talk to fans.” With those sparse words of encouragement and advice, my odyssey begins. So… What exactly is the offside rule?