“Football has played an important role in my life. I’m not particularly proud of it’
So when I met another cursed kid with the same weird West Ham fixation as me, the bond we formed was instant and lasting. We shared a niche worldview and a set of formative experiences that few others could understand. That’s how I met my best friend Ollie, when I was six, both wearing West Ham shirts on a school trip to a canal in Brentford.
Last week the two of us, now both dads in their 40s, traveled to Spain together to watch West Ham play Sevilla. We lost the game but the journey – 36 hours across Europe full of laughter, silliness and nostalgia and a sense of carefree optimism that is all too rare in middle age – was magical.
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While we were away, we learned that Roman Abramovich had been relieved of Chelsea Football Club by the government. Of course, there was a lot of celebration and jubilation among West Ham fans. But I also wondered what would happen to those Chelsea fans that Ollie and I once argued with in the playground when we were kids; they would be old like us now.
Their friendships, their memories and part of their identity would be married to their club, just as ours was; if the club somehow died, so would a part of them.
I usually lament the corny romanticism of the pink-eyed football fan. I find the marketing surrounding football fandom, focused as it usually is on a mixture of dull nonsense and cutesy sentimentality, to be condescending and banal.
That said, the existential crisis facing Chelsea and, by extension, football in general has put me in front of the facts. Football has really played an important role in my life. I’m not particularly proud of it – but we have it. It’s just a game, but it’s a game that can bring people together in a meaningful way. It generates bonds, connections, humanity and joy.
It’s such a shame that we let a bunch of cynical bastards use their money to exploit all this love. Sometimes I just want to get into stamp collecting.
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