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Glory Days.



"Only two hundred miles left to see our home club"

I enter the doors of my workplace, wearing the current England international football shirt, it is red. It’s early afternoon, and a few hours previous, England had exited the world cup due to a mixture of Brazilian flair and Japanese humidity; the match took place in Asia, making it an early AM Kick-Off in blighty. On arrival, Stuart – a Brummie with a love of obscure metal; the music, not the material, asks a throwaway question I recall with clarity; “Why are you still wearing that shirt? They are out?” My slightly hostile response was simple “So? I’m still English!”

There is a young man at the gym who regularly trains in his Arsenal home shirt. It doesn’t matter if on the previous evening they have won 8 – 0 against Middlesbrough, or just been dumped out the Champions league by AC Milan, he still wears that shirt. For this kid, the philosophy for Arsenal is the same as my own for England; win, lose, or draw, l remain a fan. I also support Barnet, (The area I was born in) who were recently relegated back to the annals of non-league football. Does this mean I am suddenly ashamed of the Bees? Of course not. Just because they get demoted, doesn’t change the way I see them. What kind of man would leave their partner, if she lost her job? If anything, it is times like these the clubs needs their fans more than ever. 

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed replica shirts of the German National side, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund, sprouting out of the blue. In all my years, I have seen perhaps less than a handful of German football shirts in my life in London – which is pretty minimal, considering the cosmopolitan nature of a seven million strong city. The trouble is, German football has entered a purple patch, and at this moment in time, is THE glamorous league to support. On a definitely related note, all the Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts I used to see all over the place – especially in Harrow, seem to have mysteriously vanished? I have not seen a Ronaldo seven shirt in weeks!

What I believe is there are two different types of football fan. The first are those who support a club or country, purely for their love of that side. For them, all the success, defeats, ecstasies and agonies, are all part of the journey. Much like a solid relationship, you love them when they stand, and in many ways, it reminds you how much you love them ever more, the times when they fall. Barnet’s relegation was sad, but it doesn’t make me want to go visit the Northampton club shop anytime soon. Of course, these fans would love their club to always win, but life cannot work like this all the time – so the stick around. They don’t dump Arsenal for Chelsea, they wait, they hope, they believe… in many ways, they love. 

The other fans are the ones I find both hilarious and tragic. This is the classic ‘glory fan’. The thirty-something Liverpool ‘supporter’ not from Merseyside. The twenty-something Manchester United ‘fan’, from London. Or the teenagers today, torn between Chelsea and Manchester City. These are those whose Manchester United or Bayern Munich shirt they wear today, would have been a Manchester City or Barcelona shirt instead – had a result or two gone in a different direction. Those who leech of success with no real love for the club they support, or shirt they wear; who want to be able to say “Look at me, I am a part of something successful”, while making no effort to achieve that success. They saturate fans, and encourage a flimsy, lazy attitude, to the time when the feeling of winning finally comes to a clubs existence. 

England as a national side, are nowhere near the team they were five years ago. Neither are Arsenal. Barnet are even worse. But it doesn’t matter. Real fans could never support any other club. I don’t care how good Lionel Messi is. And even if he scores a goal from shooting fire out of his arse, I still won’t wear a Barcelona shirt. Glory hunters follow whatever is leading the race of the times. Real fans may suffer the slings and arrows of defeat, but will be the only ones who can appreciate the success when it finally, finally arrives… they will also stick around, once the shine wears off. I salute them as fans… I salute them as people.

Lee.

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