Monday, March 1, 2010

There's No Team in I

Recently, I have been so moved as to post some opinions on football. This has involved not only seeking to educate my fellow CIFfers on some of the important tax-related issues facing the club system, but also, shockingly, opining on actual games, focussing on Manchester City FC. One result of this is that I have discovered that AllyF and PeterJackson are City fans, which is nice, but there is also a slight feeling of uncertainty, even shame, because...

I have no team.

I love football – ok, ‘love’ is perhaps a bit strong, but is meant in the same way that I love Dorothy L Sayers and Ockervill River, without there being any romance involved – but I have no life-long and all-consuming club affiliation. Part of this comes from moving around a fair bit as a child (see below for my options over time, some more attractive than others – and that’s not a ‘position’ thing, better Wingate & Finchley than Millwall, frankly), and part from my parents not doing their duty and inculcating me into their particular ‘tribe’ at an early age (Mum was a regular at Bury and Rochdale games as a teenager, but now prefers rugby and cricket, Dad was a nominal Villa fan, mainly, I think, to annoy his Birmingham City supporting father). Neither dressed me in a club-colour babygrow or dragged me, cold and grizzling, onto the terraces. This, I consider to be their main (in fact, only) failure as parents.

By the time I was able to develop my own interest in football (Mexico ’86, possibly connected to the sticker album), I was living in Marlow, where ‘sport’ usually meant boating at Henley. I developed a sympathy for Spurs, due to, I think, feeling sorry for Gary Mabbutt in the 1987 FA Cup final, and then for Liverpool, who played in red but weren’t Man United. At college, due to the deviousness of our student treasurer (the Sky account was in the name of a ‘Mr J.C.R. Hertford’, and Dave could frequently be seen dashing across the quad to check the on-screen code on the TV in the common room while on the phone ordering pay-per-view sporting events, breathlessly saying “I’m just coming in from the garden!” before climbing through a window) there was much football to watch. I developed a sympathy for Leicester City, watching the highs and lows experienced by a friend as they bounced between the Premiership and League 1. But I was never a Foxes fan...

It was about this time that I first heard “you aren’t a proper football fan unless you have a club”. Partly, this annoyed me – not true! I would think, I just love the game! – but partly, it was an unpalatable but incontrovertible truth. I was not a proper fan. I suffered only biennially, as England got tonked out of yet another international competition – I did not live that week-to-week uncertainty, hope, despair, of my club-following friends. My college boyfriend was an Everton fan, so I took an interest, a later one was City, so I took an interest, but I never had my own connection to a team. My current following of City results from another mate, down here in Montpellier, where I began by just keeping him company as he watched, and then something very strange happened.

I started to care. Not just ‘match by match’, but over a season. Heavens, over two seasons. Watching him, possibly the most laid-back man in the world, becoming tense, nervously silent before matches, and stoic but hurt after a defeat, amuses his girlfriend – one minute, he’s railing against a certain pocket-sized Brazilian (now returned to the shop) for his bad attitude, then displaying tender, almost fatherly concern for his lack of form – deciding that a certain golf-club swinging striker isn't actually an unmitigated thug – sighing about not being able to beat Stoke, then laughing out loud at being able to beat Chelsea. And I am, worryingly, starting to feel the same. Part of it is situational, no doubt (a theoretical rationalisation is mandatory on this blog) – I watch more matches featuring City than any other team – but part, perhaps, is that at the advanced age of 34, I have finally found ‘my team’. And that team is Manchester City.

One thing that really pisses me off about people who say that sexual orientation is a ‘choice’ (a queer theory reference also mandatory) is that if it really was a choice, who the hell would choose to be gay? It would be a good deal easier to choose straight. Heterosexuality is the Man United of orientations, short on variety and really rather smug. Similarly, who the hell would choose to be a City fan, or a fan of any of the clubs listed below (absent Montpellier, who are doing bewilderingly well at present)? Have I made a choice, or had one thrust upon me? Am I, as a late-comer, now a ‘proper football fan’, or simply going through a phase? Or have I simply ended up, late (as ever) where I was always destined to be?

My options:
Age 0-4 - Lichfield – Lichfield City FC (Midland Combination Division 2)
4-6 - Bristol – Bristol Rovers (League 1), or Bristol City (Championship)
6-11 - Marlow – Marlow FC (Southern League Division 1 Midlands)
11-16 - Cheltenham – Cheltenham Town FC (League 2)
16-22 - Finchley – Wingate & Finchley FC (Isthmian League Division 1 North), or Barnet (League 2)
16-18 - Bath – Bath City FC (Conference South)
18-21 - Oxford – Oxford United (Conference National)
22- 24 - Blackheath – Blackheath FC (Egg-chasing National Division 1)
24-32 - Lewisham – Millwall (League 1), or Charlton Athletic (League 1)
32-present - Montpellier – Montpellier HSC (Ligue 1)