Soccer fans can be strange creatures. I am a football fanatic and although I think I am perfectly normal, my lady would tell you otherwise! I’ve been obsessed with the game since I was a little kid, and while the game has changed in many ways over the last two decades, I’ll always be hooked.
There is something very special about match days especially. As a nipper, I remember waking up at dawn in a state of excitement – it used to drive my dad crazy! I would have laid out my soccer gear the night before so I wouldn’t have to be in a rush in the morning. Every time I put on my jersey, put on my hat and wrapped my scarf around my neck, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride for my team. Sad I know! Then I’d go downstairs for breakfast, usually hard-boiled eggs, soldiers, and a bacon, and then we’d hit the road.
The car ride to the train station would normally involve a game of espionage or grilling my dad about the ‘good old days’ as he would call them, which to you and me meant when football was played in black and white. He also got on his nerves asking him about football clothes in those days and he always replied ‘only posh kids had the replica jerseys, I had a red and white scarf that Nanny Edith knitted for me’.
I always knew he wasn’t telling me the whole truth, as I had seen pictures of him in a flat silk hat lined with insignia, but for some strange reason he never told me about it. He is a funny man, my dad!
I loved arriving at the train station and seeing the fans of the rival teams. And then as you hit the ground, walking from the station, that buzz of anticipation as you exited was and still is amazing.
You’d then roll your eyes at the hordes of fans, some in football gear, some in casual wear – a sea of red and white roaming the streets. I would always have to buy my game day software from the same software vendor. He was an older boy with shiny silver hair and used to reek of tobacco.
Dad insisted on going for a quick pint before we entered the stadium, always ordering a pint of London Pride and a packet of dry roasted peanuts. He would drink lemonade until he was a little older, when the old man would buy me a pint, whispering the immortal words: ‘don’t tell your mother!’
Going into the ground I always had butterflies in my stomach, although I have since gotten over this. I clicked the turnstiles and then ran to get to my spot on the terrace in time to watch the players warm up.
Once on the terrace, that was it. I remember the first couple of games I went to, I was in awe just looking at the atmosphere, the colors, the smells. Then the game would start and we’d get beaten up, and on the drive home you wish you were rooting for a decent team. And then the next week you would do it all over again. We’re not that weird, right?