20 reasons why I love football, Part One

22 12 2011

If you’re like me the moment that John Terry appears in our media you get lost in the moment. You are so busy wishing that  John Terry receives a lifetime ban the world passes you by. Luckily I chanced across the “500 Reasons to love Football” blog  yesterday and my misanthropic reverie was interrupted for once. 

I only read reasons 379-385 but it was enough to make me realise that sometimes I’m too much of a moaning get. In honour of the festive period I have decided to write about some of the things that I actually love about the so-called “slightly attractive game”.

1. Fanzines

I missed the emergence of the football fanzine. I missed the big bang of  DIY self-expression for the same reason that I missed a lot of music scenes; I was too young. I may have missed  the blossoming of youthful exuberance but I like to think that I experienced the golden age of fanzines, the time when this genre of literature reached full maturity. 

My first experience of  a fanzine was reading something that looked like a proper magazine. It was called When Saturday Comes. I liked the humour, I liked the style of writing and I liked the articles on foreign football. I really liked the fanzine directory in the back; even Colwyn Bay had a fanzine!!! It was called “Claret and Booze” in case you’re wondering.

The names in the directory was very evocative,  from Arsenal’s “The Gooner” to Bradford’s “City Gent”, from Sunderland’s “A Love Supreme” to Sheffield Wednesday’s “Battle of the Monster Trucks”. Then you had the fanzine with surely the best name ever; “Dial M for Merthyr”. After I read the fanzine directory I decided that I would buy fanzines whenever I could.

The  first proper fanzines I bought were a Liverpool one; “Through the Wind and Rain”, and a Welsh one, “Twlltin Pob…” ( Incidentally Twlltin Pob…was the first thing that I ever bought from Farrar Road.) I like their irreverence and their iconoclasm but I mainly liked the swearing. Thanks to my excellently well-mannered upbringing owning a magazine that contained swearing felt like a slightly dangerous act.

Every time I go to a new ground I always check if either set of  fans produce a fanzine, if they do I always try to find the vendors. Fanzines cut through the banalities of the anodyne official programme to provide a real taste of what football is like, like why Steve Bruce is a complete twat. It”s always good to know what other fans think and fanzines tell us what they think.

In the last year or so I’ve managed to pick up some old fanzines from Rhyl and Colwyn Bay and they have provided a very interesting snapshot of north Walian football in the early 1990s. It was also interesting to find out why their fans don’t like Bangor City. Colwyn Bay’s fans were pissed off about Bangor’s treachery when they joined the League of Wales whereas Rhyl’s fans were jealous that Bangor’s programme used to say that Bangor were the biggest non-league club in north Wales when we had the temerity to have this status.

Mind you I’ve read some crap fanzines in my time too – like the thing that purported to be a Birmingham City fanzine,  but looked more like a BNP  recruiting mag, I once read while waiting for a haircut.

Get out there and buy one!!!

2. 1980s shirts

(I couldn’t choose 1980s kits because the shorts were indecently short and the sock were just well socks.)

The 1980s was the last era where kits were simple clean designs. There was something stylish about 1980s shirts because designers were yet to add day-glo colours, symmetrical shapes and asymmetrical blobs. There was just something crisp about the design; the most ostentatious design was a pin stripe. Sometimes the shirt didn’t have a sponsor.

Look at these lovely examples;

Sadly the kit manufacturers haven’t always produced stylish kits since the 1980s. For example;

3. Seeing late, late goals.

There’s something magical about seeing a last minute goal.

I must clarify this statement, I’m not talking about any old last minute goal.  I’m not talking about watching the last minute goals that your team scores when they are already 4-0 up and I’m obviously not talking about watching the  last minute goal your team concedes either. Witnessing either of these types of last minute goal is not satisfying. The kind of last-minute goals that I’m referring to are the satisfying ones; when your team scores an equaliser or winner.

The feeling you feel when you see your team score an important last-minute goal is almost indescribable. The best way that I can describe it is as a feeling of massive emotional release. When I typed goal in the sentence that preceded the last one I inadvertently typed “gaol”, this was almost Freudian. An important last minute goal in your teams favour can sometimes feel like an unexpected reprieve from a punishment. (Obviously this is more figurative than literal). An important last minute goal is one of the rare time when all of your hopes come to fruition.

The funny thing about important late, late goals is that equalisers feel almost as good as winners, especially when you been behind by more than one goal, especially if your opponents have played like moral-free twats by subjecting you to 90  minutes of whinging, incessant claiming,  simulating and wasting time etc, etc.

Since Neville Powell became Bangor City manager in 2007 there have been many occasions when Bangor have scored important late, late goals; In November 2007 Bangor were losing 2-0 to Llangefni in the 88th minute by the 93rd minute we had equalised. Last season Airbus suffered when karma caught up with them and we equalised in injury time. Last Season Jamie Reed scored two goals in injury time that meant Bangor City won 3-1. We have even scored late, late goals in Welsh Cup Finals; in the four consecutive Welsh Cup Finals I’ve seen one last-minute equaliser and one injury time winner.

I love late, late goals.

4. Trips to places you haven’t been to.

I should give thanks to football for allowing me to see lots of the world. Without football providing a reason to travel I’m not sure I would have been to Glasgow, Graz, Altrincham, Blackburn, Jutland, Brussels, Saint Etienne, Wigan or Helsinki. Without football I may not have seen as much of Wales either; I doubt I would have been to certain areas of Cardiff, Newport or Swansea and I probably wouldn’t have been to Caersws, Guilsfield, Carmarthen or Llanelli either.

Without football the trips would not have taken place, without these trips my life would not feel as rich. I wouldn’t have such an intimate knowledge of Britain’s public transport.  I would know less about the differing local cultures of Britain and Europe. I would not have sampled the culinary delights that various areas of Europe offer; the Lamb Oggie, the Piri-piri chicken Baguette, the Frankfurter, the Foie Gras sandwich. I would not have visited 100s of pubs and bars.  I wouldn’t have seen city and town centre are becoming homogenised with my own eyes either. 

Thank you football for giving me a taste of the “better life”!!!!

5. Trips abroad

Football trips abroad are quite special events. Football trips are better versions of so-called normal holidays; you can still do the normal holiday stuff like sight-seeing but you also have  a football match in the sun to watch.

When you add the carousing, the singing, the fancy dress clothing, the sunshine, the carousing, the memories, the food and the carousing a football trip simply becomes a magical experience. Anyone that’s been on a football trips would agree about this.

The joy begins before you even leave home. First you have the draw. This is when the anticipation begins; Who will we play? Where will go? I hope we go somewhere new!! If you’re a follower of a national team the anticipation is sometimes greater because the draw is made at least 18 months before the first match so you have ages to plan you expectations.

The anticipation goes up a notch when the exact travel plans are formulated. At this stage there will be excited conversations about plans…….. “Where did you get your flights from?” ……… “Where are you flying from?”………… “Where are you staying?”……….. “On aye, Mark stayed there last time, he said it was quite nice!!!”…….

God forbid if you can’t go on the trip because this stage will begin grate after a bit.

In the weeks leading up to the trip you head will be filled by a thousand questions and a thousand hopes; How will it turn out? ….. Which sights will we see? ……. How drunk will the usual suspects get?…… Imagine how good it will be if we score!!! If you’re venturing into unknown territory the anticipation is even greater.

The football may be the reason that you’re going on a trip but it’s almost incidental to the trip. These trips are always great because you meet so many amazed people in your destination. A lot of people just won’t believe that you’ve gone all that way simply to watch a game of football.

When I think about it, it’s amazing to think how many people I’ve met, and  friends I’ve made, on football trips abroad. Not only do you meet great people but you also get to know more about people you already know because  you see another side to them. Even if you see people every Saturday you don’t know that much about them as you only generally see them in a couple of settings, the pub and the ground. When you’re abroad with the same people you see how people truly are because you see how they act in a different environment.  In my experience this has been a positive experience as it often leads to fantastic experiences.

This is all great and we haven’t even touched the idea of memories from trips, the laughs the stories are great, they are something to share for years to come.  For example my trip to Denmark in 2008 saw the following;

I thought that I’d found I shop that sold Kalashnikovs yet an hour later it wasn’t there; the exiled Cardiff fan in Aarhus that fixed the pub quiz for us to win; Huw P singing Karaoke; the fans’ match in Herning; the 60 Bangor fans constantly sang for the entire match; I nearly missed the plane hoe because I overslept, I arrived with five minutes check in to spare.

These memories may not sound very impressive but they will last forever. After the trip they will be easily shared at every opportunity to ensure a few laughs at an opportune moment. Football trips are magic!!

6. Conversations with people

I’m not talking about having conversations about football with people. There’s nothing worse than entering into a debate with people who believe they are football fans because they shout at television screens in pubs. 

I’m talking about here the conversations that you have with the people who go to matches with you. These conversations will cover everything; food, politics, football, music, films, holiday memories. You don’t even need football as a topic. Some of the most interesting conversation I’ve ever had have taken place at football matches. Watching football is one of the most social of leisure activities and being with good people is what being a football fan is all about.

7. Meeting people

A common interest in football has provided many friendships over the years. This method of making friends began in primary school and has remained ever since. 

As I said above football is a social activity, it’s bound to facilitate the making of  friendships, it’s bound to bring people together. It’s amazing who I’ve bumped into just because they happen to like football; Welsh musicians, soap actors, Sgorio journalists, authors of award winning blogs, actors, presenters of wildlife programmes on the television …….

I always find it amazing when I think about  how many people I’ve met because of football over the last few years. At Bangor I’ve met several hundred people because they simply wanted to come to Bangor. Some of them became regular fans because they loved the experience so much; a Canadian freelance photographer, a university lecturer in French and long distance Millwall fan from Yorkshire to name are only three example.

On the way to Bangor matches I’ve met Meic Stevens the musician, a bloke that goes to Tranmere games in the same car as Nigel from Half Man Half Biscuit and a Merthyr fan that liked my flags when he saw them on S4C.

I have met and befriended opposition fans.  There’s Nigel, Mark and  the rest of the gang at Port Talbot, plus the good people at Airbus. I have even met and befriended foreign fans; I’m still very much in touch with fans from Midtjylland like Hekler and Soren.

Then there’ s the internet. Thanks to twitter, new avenues of football friendship have opened up and this has led to meeting even more people. It only took a few quick tweets and I met Rob and Ian from 200 per cent in Chester’s ground. Over the last few months I’ve met Ianto and Rhodri at Carmarthen thanks to Twitter as well. Facebook is also good for this and this led me to hook up with Hekler and the boys from Midtjylland.

Message boards also have their place for developing friendships as there’s so much space to express your thoughts well. This led to the building of great relations between Bangor City and Port Talbot Town fans.

This blog has also led to good human contacts.  Some fine writers, like the people behind “The Two Unfortunates” and comrades like the Hibby Boys, Ricardo and the Portuguese lads have been in touch over the years. I may not have met all these people yet but it’s nice to think football has allowed people from various parts of the world to contact each other.

This is surely one of the better thing about football that it can allow people to make friends.

8. Danny Baker

Of all the presenters, panellists and pundits that opine on the subject of the beautiful game Danny Baker is the best. He’s the only person that I can think of that doesn’t resort to cliché when he’s talking about football.

In fact, Baker actively avoids clichés by preferring to talk about the incidentals around the game. Questions like; “What’s the oddest shape pitch you’ve ever played on” and “Can we makes a players out of all the body parts that players have injured?” fill his shows. This approach is a darn sight better than listen to than the crap Lovejoy, Spoony and the other twats come out with. He also made the best funny football out-takes video. His recovery from Cancer was some of the best news I’ve heard this year.

200 percent has an archive of Danny Baker (with Danny Kelly) material so you can here how good he is for yourself.

9. Discovering clips on You Tube

It’s a fantastic pleasure to discover things on you tube, whether that’s things you’ve forgotten about, things you haven’t discovered yet or just plain odd things. Some examples;

Remember, never overlook the clips in the sidebar when you’re viewing You Tube. Visual gold may lie in those clips!!!

10. Rediscovering old programmes and magazines

See this post.

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One response

22 12 2011
The First Man (@BeatTheFirstMan)

Marvellous. Ruddy marvellous

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