Football fans are loyal to their clubs – not the players who play for them. Of course, this formula works both ways - the players could not care less for those who follow them. It is as if a club is the Mother you love without condition, and each constantly revolving player, the step-father you were forced to accept as a portion of your life; but beyond how well they treated your Mother, never really cared for in the slightest.
Should the Mother ever abandon your side; the action is never met with a burning instant hatred, combined with malicious insults which serve no purpose. There is initial rage, but it quickly turns to disappointment, rejection, and a slow burning hurt which – while it eventually passes, shall always leave a scar upon the heart. You simply wonder why, for the bond is too strong to wish them any ill. The Mother is irreplaceable; and you either accept it, and move on, or refuse to, and go backwards. Another club is NEVER an option – no matter how glamorous they appear to be.
If the step-father leaves, however, it is a different story altogether. All you feel is desire to tell him to fuck off someplace else, and how you never liked him anyway. You may even wish him a shitty future – quietly hoping his next marriage is a disaster of Sid and Nancy proportions. Yet, beyond how his decision damages your family unit, you really couldn’t give two shits about him as a human being; all you see is a man hurting your Mother – his reasons mean little to you, and cannot override the blinded emotion you feel within. You never loved him; only when he was nice to you, and made you feel good – a natural act of immaturity, but something fans of all clubs, never seem to evolve beyond.
Football fans often talk about how much they love the players who play for their team. But, I wonder to myself, isn’t this love quite often a little one-sided? When any employee (like it or not, they are essentially, employees) goes through a purple patch - banging in performances week after week, everyone loves him; everything he touches is considered gold, as he fulfils the vicarious nature of those who adorn the shirts with his name upon. And yet, when he enters rough waters and consistency dries up, those same fans bemoan the manager to make a quick sale, chant expletives at every bad pass or tackle he makes, and vent about his ridiculously high salary; even though it was perfectly fine when he was winning, and so were the club. With any form of true love, when they suffer, you go into an overdrive of compassion and help to get them back to normal again. With shallow, empty, selfish love, you just want them to get better - so you don't have to feel so bad.
Footballers are poorly educated individuals, burdened by youth to carry the maturity to make decisions based on rationale, and pleasing the many. We often forget this fact when - in any other walk of life, a male in his twenties leaving a job for more money or possible success, is deemed quite reasonable. Footballers are young adult males, placed upon a pedestal by the media, the fans, agents, and societal perception. In essence, they are men asked to be step-fathers, who are too young and foolish to understand the responsibility such a role entails. Then again, they never choose to marry anybody’s Mother, just take a job with a club which thought he could make them a better acquisition; the Mother's marriage to the step-father, in itself, has a whole life of its own.
I am sure there are those who suggest the step-father should carry on regardless, no matter how tough the road gets. And in most cases, he probably should; he made the vow, and this deserves to be respected. However, non-reciprocated love is doomed to fail. And if it was true love, the fans would not turn as quickly as they do; only feel a sense of sadness, and wish them well in their future endeavours. In my view, footballers play for themselves, as much as football fans support a team for themselves. I support England. Not because I want John Terry to win a World Cup, but because I would love to one day belong to a nation, which has actually succeeded at a major football tournament. England in essence, is my Mother, the players, a group of step-fathers, unable to live up to the expectation forced upon them. The only difference is, I know they - like all of us, have to do the best for themselves, and those who love them with true conviction.
They say footballers do not truly love the fans who pay to watch them play every week. Of course, this formula works both ways…